When it comes to Santa Maria Style Barbecue, you’d be hard pressed to find a greater authority than Ike Simas, whose experience with the local barbecue style now spans 59 consecutive years.
In a recent piece published by the Santa Maria Sun, food and wine writer Wendy Thies Sell turned the spotlight on Mr. Simas and his longtime expertise with preparing Santa Maria Style Barbecue (it’s a magnificent read, you can check it out here).
Mr. Simas is a fixture at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge, where he still runs a volunteer Elks barbecue crew twice per month. The Santa Maria Elks Lodge boasts a long and illustrious history with Santa Maria Style Barbecue, and is considered a true keeper of the proverbial flame of Santa Maria Style Barbecue. Mr. Simas recalls the Elks team staging barbecues for President Ronald Reagan among many other public and private cookouts, including one that fed a crowd of 9,500 at a convention in San Francisco.
Interestingly, Mr. Simas says, “Tri-tip is not Santa Maria-style barbecue! It was pushed by certain people in Santa Maria. ”
To those who consider tri-tip synonymous with Santa Maria Style Barbecue, that may sound like heresy. But the truth is, Mr. Simas was schooled in the tradition before tri-tip was popularized locally in the late 1950s. Prior to that, top block sirloin was the definitive cut (and before that, it was ribeye). So his old-school position is certainly understandable.
We would like to salute Mr. Simas and other local giants of Santa Maria BBQ, both past and present, for their contributions and dedication to our local culinary tradition. Santa Maria Style Barbecue isn’t just about the ingredients and methods; it’s also about the people and community who have embraced and nurtured it over the decades!