Baptism River BBQ Co.
by Laurie Kallinen
Dan Cahill Mathews has been cooking since he was two years old! That’s when his father taught him how to scramble eggs while standing on a kitchen chair so he could reach the stove. It’s no surprise that he and wife, Kaylee, find themselves in the food business.
“My wife and I moved to the Finland area drawn by the natural beauty of forests and rivers, abundance of outdoor recreation… (and are now expanding) our mobile BBQ business (Baptism River Barbecue Co.) As relatively new transplants to the Finland community, (we) are excited to immerse (ourselves) deeper into this vibrant, resilient, and welcoming community.”
I spoke with Dan and Kaylee Cahill Mathews at their Baptism River BBQ stand during Bay Days in Silver Bay. Prior to this year they had only done a few special events, but had such a positive response last year they are joining the growing food truck movement and have more events scheduled this year. And considering what it takes for them to set up, that is no mean feat!
While he’s always been interested in the farm to fork movement, Dan was challenged early on in his business by H. Michael Casper to “Always buy and support local.” since then it has become a point of pride for the business. “A lot of effort goes into sourcing locally.” It includes contacting farms individually and then picking up or shipping the goods rather than just placing an order with one supplier. Honoring local and respecting the impact to farmers are important for Dan. He takes pride that, “everything is locally sourced but the buns, …and even those are made by a Minnesota company!” While those efforts are reflected in a higher price, they take pride in keeping the price as low as possible for the value of the product.
“A lot of effort goes into sourcing locally…“
“… everything is locally sourced but the buns,
…and even those are made by a Minnesota company!”
Baptism River’s BBQ style is a conglomeration made up of East (Carolina w vinegar, pepper and maple syrup), and West (Kansas City sweet and smoky) to make his unique Northwoods style.
A day in the life of Baptism River BBQ is actually closer to a week in the making!
Events are often Friday-Sunday affairs with prep typically starting on the Tuesday before. That’s when the menu is planned and meats are trimmed and seasoned, taking into account what meat is available; pork belly, beef brisket, etc.
Wednesday is loading of all needed supplies and equipment into their truck to be hauled to the Clair Nelson Center on Thursday. There they rent the certified kitchen to do the rest of their prep work, often arriving by 6:30am. It’s a full 10 hours to smoke meats, cool and transfer to their staging refrigerator, and make their house-made pickles, coleslaw, sauces, rubs and signature Mac-N-Cheese.
Friday, event day, they make 2 trips using a U-haul trailer to get all their gear, food, and the large smoker to the site and start it heating up. While the pulled pork is smoked on prep day, Ribs, chicken, brisket, etc. are smoked the day of an event. And then there’s the tear-down, 3-1/2 to 4 hours and another two trips to haul it all back home! Dan and Kaylee are hoping to do well enough this year to invest in their own trailer soon. When asked what was the favorite thing about running their business, both Dan and Kaylee answered almost simultaneously, “Working together and getting to know people in the community.”
Everything is house-made!
Including; Mustard BBQ sauce, Rubs, and the bread crumbs for the Mac-N-Cheese. It took 27 attempts to get the right combination of seasonings and crumbs, baked vs stove-top, but when they got it right, Dan exclaimed “Oh %@#&, this is GOOD!” and they knew they got it right.
The Cahill-Mathews’ don’t just want to serve their delicious food, they also have goals:
*Promote sustainability by using primarily compostable packaging and cutlery.
*Be a resource for others who want to start their own business.
*And “Carve a path to local produce”.
In fact, Dan stressed to give a shout out to the local producers they use. They include:
Beef & Pork – Yker Acres – ykeracres.com
Chicken – Rustic Pastures – email@example.com
Greens – Wolf Ridge Organic Farm – https://wolf-ridge.org/explore/wolf-ridge-organic-farm/
Cucumbers – Round River Farm – www.round-river.com
& Finnskogen Farm –finnskogenfarm.com
Maple Syrup – Wild Country Maple Syrup – wildcountrymaple.com
& Minnesota Syrup Co. – www.mnsyrup.com
Even his smoker wood is from local loggers!