Here at the Official Santa Maria BBQ Blog, we’ve noted numerous times how our regional culinary tradition is spreading far and wide, and the latest example is Burnin’ Wood BBQ of Greensboro, North Carolina. Mark and Mary Rosa started Burnin’ Wood BBQ Company towards the end of last year. They call it a “have pit, will travel” business. Mark hires himself out as a personal barbecue chef, and brings the pit to ‘cue up tri-tip, chicken, veggies….whatever his clients request. Mark and Mary specialize in winery and microbrewery events, festivals, reunions and other family gatherings. “My goal is to provide simple, delicious, open-pit barbecue,” Mark says. We recently caught up with Mark to discover how his Santa Maria Style Barbecue business took root 3,000 miles away from the Santa Maria Valley:
How did you come to specialize in Santa Maria BBQ out in North Carolina?
I was born and raised in Santa Maria, California, and this style of BBQ is part of our family tradition. My father taught me how to barbecue tri-tip, and we had a built-in pit in our backyard. We would basically find any reason to BBQ and get the family together: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, etc. I have been doing this style of barbecue for 30-plus years. In 1995, I moved to Florida. When I met my wife in Florida, we would do barbecue on a little Weber grill with red oak chips that my sister sent me from California. Whenever I had the opportunity, I would grill up for friends — who absolutely loved it! Upon moving to North Carolina in 2006, I continued to share this style of barbecue with my neighbors and friends here. For my birthday last year, I special ordered a Santa Maria BBQ pit from Costco in Bakersfield (since they didn’t have one here in Greensboro). The first “official” barbecue was actually for our wine club member picnic at McRitchie Winery in Elkin, NC. I had contacted the owners and offered to bring my pit and BBQ for the picnic. People raved about it so much — I thought to myself, I could actually turn this love, and hobby for fellowship and food into a business.
How do you obtain your Santa Maria BBQ ingredients—are they hard to find?
At first it was very difficult to find the ingredients for this style of BBQ. It took a lot of research online and getting in touch with local vendors here in Greensboro to find most of the ingredients. The Greensboro area here in North Carolina, is very similar to Santa Maria in terms of offering local, fresh ingredients, so I source from our local Farmers Markets whenever possible for the chicken and veggies. We have found vendors for the artichokes, linguica and untrimmed tri-tip in Greensboro. North Carolina also has red oak trees, and I’ve been able to locate wood, but still have my sister send out some bark from California when she can. The Pinquito beans have still eluded my search here, so my mom and best friend ship them out to me from Santa Maria.
North Carolina is famous for its own regional barbecue style. What’s the typical reaction from folks out there when they try Santa Maria BBQ for the first time?
People are blown away! Much like a book or movie, this style of BBQ is its own genre, so people don’t tend to compare it to North Carolina BBQ. They are impressed with how succulent and flavorful the food is — even being cooked over open flame — and they love the flavor the oak wood imparts. Burnin’ Wood BBQ is as much about the fellowship and friendship as it is about the food. I’m very glad to share my family tradition with others. As I say on my business cards, “It’s BBQ’d Love!” Here’s a testimony from someone whose lived in NC for 30 years (and who I had the opportunity to BBQ for their celebration).