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(Monday) 6.9.14

Surf Labor Profile – Beachwood BBQ

Long before you see Beachwood BBQ the Seal Beach’s ever-present afternoon on shore flow pushes a hint of smoky BBQ into the air. Walking up with photographer Ben Ginsberg the hints turn to full aroma and our mouths starts to water.

We arrived at this perfectly situated and tastefully quaint restaurant right before lunch on a Friday. This could have been a critical mistake – anyone who has ever worked at a restaurant knows – don’t mess with the operation during lunch. BUT Beachwood BBQ is founded, owned and operated by lifelong surfer Gabe Gordon. There was a constant calm and easy vibe the entire time we were in the restaurant. Why? Gabe was telling us he had actually just got out of the water down in HB and had a really fun session so he was stoked – ha! (another reason why we love surfer owned businesses).

Gabe from Beachwood BBQ

Gabe from Beachwood BBQ

 

Gabe’s story is awesome.  You have to go back to when he was 16 years old to understand why he wanted to be a professional chef and own his own restaurant. At 16, Gabe had a friend who’s father was a celebrity chef (long before the days of the Food Network and the hype machine). He was a legit celebrity which meant world travel, glamorous meals, big bucks and all the other jazz that comes with being a celeb. Pretty big impression on a 16 year old. Gabe told us it was right there that he knew he wanted to be a chef.

 

His first job in the kitchen happened when he was in college at UCSB – Santa Barbara Brewing. Gabe walked into the kitchen talked to the chef and told him he wanted a job – “I’ll peel potatoes, wash dishes, and do everything you don’t want to.” The chef hired him. No surprise what happened next – Gabe peeled potatoes, washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen, peeled more potatoes and washed an endless pile of dishes.  One day after his shift ended the chef was going to cook a steak for a customer. Gabe offered to stay late – no pay – and be the chef’s arms. “The chef told me when to flip, when to marinade, and ultimately when to plate.”  Gabe offered to help all the time and ultimately was promoted to prep cook. That was the start…

 

How’d a surfer, from OC, who went to school in SB, become a great BBQ chef? A bit of luck… when the definition of luck is “what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  Gabe worked at several swanky restaurants. The head chefs specialized in all sorts of swanky cuisine but all were from the South. There was always a hint of Southern cooking in the swanky joints so Gabe learned the art of BBQ thru them.

 

When it came time to open his own joint he was all set for a swanky-gastro-molecular-culinary-artsy-joint. Fortunately all the locals that we asked did not seem so hot on the idea. Gabe had to make a call and make it quick (he was paying rent on the space). So he called an audible and switched to Q. Thank you for pushing Gabe to BBQ and Beer. Yes, beer. 22 specialty craft draft beers (they have their own webcam). But let’s take a pause for a second. I really want you to understand that Gabe isn’t your typical restaurant owner. He is a craftsman. About an hour into our interview I made a comparison out loud that you deserve to hear.

 

Many of you purchase your boards custom. You trust your shaper because he knows everything there is to know about foam, volume, how you like to surf, the beaches you surf, what else is in your quiver, what you want to do on a board… and the list goes on. Gabe takes the same passionate and borderline obsessive approach to food and drink. Let me explain thru beer (I’ve always wanted to say that).

 

Wall o' Beers at Beachwood BBQ

Wall o' Beers at Beachwood BBQ

22 beers on tap. 18 different types of glassware. Every person who works there knows all 22 and how they should be served. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gabe explains beer is a journey. Here’s the journey I went on. “Your first beer it on an empty palate. Since you prefer a lager/pilsner beer your first beer is going to be Mission Blonde Ale.” Then we ate appetizers and finished my beer. “Now your taste buds are awake and ready for something with more flavor. Your next beer should be North Peak Brewing Archangel Summer Wheat” our main course of Pulled Pork, Baby Back’s, and Brisket is served (beer is finished as I savor every bite) “Your taste buds are firing Russian River  Redemption, a Belgian style blonde ale.

 

Appetizer from Beachwood BBQ

Appetizer from Beachwood BBQ

 

I have never had a beer pairing. It’s crazy how good everything tastes when they are paired perfectly. Our photographer friend Ben Ginsberg was there and he prefers a hoppy beer so his journey was completely different and ended with a house beer where some of the ingredients are smoked in the same smoker that cooks all the delicious BBQ. So cool!!!

Ribs from Beachwood BBQ

Ribs from Beachwood BBQ

 

You will get the same experience. How? Every server and bartender knows every beer on tap. Knows what glassware goes with which beer and how to pair it with food. Gabe has made it part of the weekly training his staff gets. There is also monthly beer training that both Gabe and his brewmaster teach. “We are the upper echelon of beer geeky-ness…in a casual BBQ joint.” Gabe feels a responsibility to the brewer (some of which are his friends) to present the product in the best light possible. Maybe it was my imagination but I swear you can taste the passion and pride in ownership. Loved it.

 

Gabe Stoked We Love The Beer/Food Pairing

Gabe Stoked We Love The Beer/Food Pairing

When he isn’t in the kitchen or spending time with his family Gabe is surfing the ugliest board I have ever seen. “It looks like my 18 month old got a crayon and drew the outline to the board.” (yes it does) “but this is the first magic board I have had since college” (WTF?) “I know. It’s ugly, asymmetrical, has an off-center center, and before it was made the shaper wanted to see all of my other boards.” It’s his favorite board and we both laughed at how ugly it was. Then he smiled and said “best board since college.” We both knew how rare that is and I asked for the shapers info. Ha!

Gabe's Asym...and barrels (ha!)

Gabe's Asym...and barrels (ha!)

 

Address: 131 Main St. Seal Beach 

Website: http://beachwoodbbq.com

 

A full photo gallery compliments of Ben Ginsberg – Thanks Ben!

 


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