By Kevin Kelley
Commercial barbecue cooking involves a lot of secrets, says Al “Bubba” Baker.
The Avon resident and former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman should know. Since opening seven years ago, his Bubba’s Q World Famous Bar-B-Q and Catering restaurant has won several regional awards.
One secret, Baker said, involves applying a layer of mustard to the brisket before cooking for better flavoring.
But you don’t need to be a restaurateur to enjoy good barbecue meals thanks to a cookbook, featuring dozens of recipes from Baker and his family.
Baker and his 28-year-old daughter, Brittani Bo Baker, who compiled the recipes, will sign copies of the “Al ‘Bubba’ Baker’s Simple Southern Cookbook” at 1 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Booksellers at Crocker Park in Westlake.
“The cookbook is designed for non-cooking people to follow, allowing them to make some very nice dishes,” Baker told West Life.
His daughter, a managing partner at Bubba’s Q, kept the cookbook project a secret until presenting him with the finished version on Father’s Day last year. Baker said he was quite surprised. He said he had yelled at her when she took photos at the restaurant for the book, thinking she was getting distracted from the business.
“I am so flattered by my daughter’s desire to honor her father and share our recipes,” Baker said.
All the recipes come from his family, he said. Baker learned barbecuing from his uncle, “Daddy Jr.,” who opened a popular restaurant in Jacksonville, Fla., in the late 1950s.
“All of my recipes are southern,” Baker said. He laughed when asked how his cookbook would go over with health-conscious foodies. But he quickly added that fish recipes are included, and that barbecue meals need to be eaten in moderation.
His favorite item in the cookbook is his mother’s fried chicken recipe, he said.
“I’m a mamma’s boy,” he said, “and it was something my mother made every Sunday.” The fried chicken meal remains a popular item on the menu at his restaurant, located at 820 Center Road in Avon.
A portion of proceeds from cookbook sales will go to the Cleveland Foodbank. Baker and his restaurant have hosted holiday dinners for the needy in Lorain County and Cleveland the past several years.
Baker spoke with West Life by phone from Florida, where he was serving as guest judge for several episodes of “BBQ Pitmasters.” Episodes of the reality cooking show featuring Baker will air on the Destination America cable channel this spring.
Baker, who retired from the Browns in 1990, said recent administrative moves by new owner Jimmy Haslam fit well with the traditions of the franchise.
“I’m excited because of the things they’re talking about – stability, being aggressive. That’s the AFC North philosophy,” he said.