First time Brisket King ® participant Ed Randolph of Handsome Devil in Newburgh, NY comes with quite the pedigree. He is a six-time state BBQ championship award winner, NYCWFF Best BBQ Champion, Food Network “Chopped” champion, North Jersey BBQ Showcase winner and barbecue cookbook author. Leading up to Brisket King ®, we talked with Ed about what it was like to open a restaurant during the pandemic, why he loves the barbecue community and what he’s looking forward to. Stop by the restaurant to try Handsome Devil’s ‘cue – but make sure you get there early as they frequently sell out of specialties like ribs. For a guaranteed taste of Ed’s brisket, get your tickets to Brisket King® NYC 2021 here!
Food Karma: How did you decide to open a brick and mortar (especially during a pandemic!)?
Ed Randolph: We call this “Ed Luck.” We have been looking for a place for the last 3 years. We had offers and interest in seven other locations. In December of 2019 we found our forever home and put an offer in on it. The pandemic hit in mid-March, and we closed on April 1st. We are not scared, we believe in our team and our community. To be honest we wouldn’t have it any other way. This will just be another foot note in our success.
FK: How has the pandemic changed your business?
ER: Other than the obvious seating restrictions, we have had to refocus on the importance of take out service. What typically was a secondary or even third revenue stream has turned into a main focus. We are very lucky that BBQ is very take out friendly.
FK: What have you learned about your business during this time?
ER: I’ve learned that our community is freaking awesome. During our buildout, we did a few food drives for front line workers and their families. Before we were able to hammer a nail in the wall, our community came out to support us and feed our friends. However, most notably was the effort of our local contractors and municipality that really made the difference for me. So many people donated time and extra material to make our place special. I could not have done this without their help. To be honest, when people ask if it was stressful to open a restaurant during a pandemic, I say not really. The stress is not letting down the people who gave their blood, sweat and tears to make this place happen. Our place is the epitome of community: it is more than BBQ, it is family.
FK: What got you into barbecue to start with?
ER: I’ve always been attracted to cooking over an open flame. Each year, I would do a New Years day party at my home called “Friends, Family and Freeloaders.” That turned into an annual winter BBQ and led to one of my friends suggesting I offer my food to the public. I spent all of 2011 working on my craft: developing a rub, sauce and mac ‘n cheese recipe. January 2012 we launched the brand and it quickly took off.
FK: How did you land on the name Handsome Devil?
ER: Ummm isn’t it evident? No, I am not that vain. Usually when most people hear the name and see me they say “I hope you have a partner.” In addition to the BBQ life, I am the CFO and COO for an architectural firm in the city. One morning while leaving for work at 5am to catch the train, my oldest daughter, Lily at the age of 5, greeted me at the top of the stairs. She said, “Daddy, have a good day. You’re a handsome devil.” I spent the next hour on the train looking up the name and filing the paperwork on line with the state. 8 years later, Lily is looking for royalties.
FK: What have been some of the highlights of your career?
ER: We have been blessed with the luck of winning state BBQ championships awards in six states, we won at NYCWFF and I was lucky enough to win an episode of Chopped on the Food Network and author a couple BBQ cookbooks. But the most rewarding thing for me was our work with Operation BBQ Relief. During Hurricane Sandy, we went to Little Ferry and Moonachie, NJ to feed families hard hit by the storm. Don’t get me wrong, shaking hands with Andrew Zimmern and being acknowledged as the best among my peers was nice. To have someone shake your hand who you may or may never see again, thanking you for giving his family the first hot meal they had in a week is something that will forever resonate with me. BBQ is more than food, it is family.
FK: What are you looking forward to personally and within the barbecue circuit?
ER: I am looking forward to sharing the craft of BBQ with the next generation. Cooking with my daughters, watching them win kids ‘que awards is something that reminds me why pitmasters work late nights and early mornings in obscurity. I can’t wait to get back on the road as we travel from Vermont to South Beach and as far west as Tennessee to do events and competitions. I miss my fellow BBQ family the way pulled pork misses cole slaw.
FK:Is there anything else you want to add?
ER: I want to thank everyone who has supported us. From guests to the press to event organizers, it means a lot to be included in such events like Brisket King. Without these events we would not be able to share our craft of BBQ. Live. Love. Eat BBQ, Y’all.