Follow the smoke to Florida’s most fun winter weekend!
Whet your appetite for Chef Randal White’s noontime food demonstration Saturday, Feb. 12, at the 3rd annual Santa Fe College Boots ‘n BBQ Cook-Off and scholarship fundraiser. This local TV personality is bringing his fast-paced style of food prep and commentary to the Bradford County Fairgrounds.
What’s on his bill of fare? Sides for barbecue, naturally. And since the event is to raise dollars for scholars, he will cook something green for scholars – broccoli cole slaw and green alligator chili. (White thinks cole slaw, potato salad, corn, and red chili are also great sides.)
White is an avid barbecuer. He has a big trailer smoker and has entered his share of competitions in the past, although he no longer has time for it. His favorite meats to barbecue are pork shoulder, smoked turkey and smoked prime rib.
His favorite wood for smoking is blackjack oak, which he said is not as smoky as other woods and has no bitterness. White said this kind of oak can be hard to find, but he happens to live in a forest full of it.
White claims that smoke is the “fifth flavor” added to the mantra of four basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty) that our taste buds recognize. He said, in fact, it is the desire for food and smoke that will make people drive a long way for barbecue – they are seeking that elusive flavor.
“A hundred years ago when people cooked on wood stoves there would always be a little smoke flavor in their food even though they didn’t realize it,” he said. “It’s a natural, outdoors flavor that brings you back to reality – the way food tasted before indoor stoves. But our food doesn’t taste like that anymore.”
He’s a fourth generation native Floridian who grew up in Plant City. After graduation from Dade City High School White opted to join the military instead of going to college. “I wanted to be a leader, so I joined the Marines,” he said.
While serving in The Corps, White took extended education classes at Los Angeles Community College. His goal was to advance his military career “and make myself smarter.”
He had dreamt of being a chef since he was six years old, so when he returned to civilian life he began that career. White took many gourmet classes at Withlacoochee Vo Tech to enhance his culinary skills. “I always believed in learning as much as I could,” he said.
“No one in our family had previously been a chef, but my brother and three nephews have followed in my footsteps,” he said. They all cook in the Crystal River area.
In 2000 White took business classes at then Central Florida Community College “to get computer savvy” for work. The business knowledge he gained in those courses is used daily in his current job at the Ocala Hilton.
As chef of the Ocala Hilton, White prefers to buy produce from local organic farmers when he can. Otherwise his produce comes from North Florida or Georgia with, of course, fresh seafood from Florida.
His TV show, “Dishin’ It Out,” is filmed at the Hilton. Air times for the show and information about his retail line of barbecue sauces can be found on White’s Web site www.chefrandalwhite.com.
There’s fun for the whole family at Boots ‘n BBQ and live entertainment all weekend. The 2011 festival runs 5-9 p.m. Thursday Feb. 10, 5-10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11 and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Bradford County Fairgrounds, rain or shine. Admission is $5 per day. To learn more about the festival visit www.bootsnbbq.