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Get ready for some good barbecue

Foodies in the Parkland, take note. A real treat is about to come your way.

Three masters of barbecue have agreed to make their specialties on Sept. 6 as a fundraiser to kick off the United Way’s annual Dine Out campaign.

Dine Out for United Way features a different restaurant each Thursday through Nov. 15. A portion of the proceeds from each meal eaten at the selected establishment go to the United Way, which has pledged $190,000 to 31 agencies and programs in St. Francois County.

For the kickoff event, Matt Greif of the Good Greif barbecue team is making chicken, Jim Hart is preparing peppered pork tenderloin and Rob Thomas is bringing the must have standby, pulled pork.

These men are all well-known for their barbecue skills and are preparing recipes they’ve developed and perfected over a period of many years.

“I am just going to guess that it took seven years to get our seasoning the way it is today,” Thomas said. “We were real close, and then I tried some of a friend’s barbecue down in Memphis and had to change mine a little bit.”

You’ll be able to place orders for a plate of your choice or a sampler plate of all three of these fantastic barbecue recipes until Aug. 30. The cost is $7 and $10 respectively which includes side dishes of baked beans, slaw, bread and a cookie. The side dishes are being prepared by area senior centers.

Preorders may be faxed to 573-358-0004 until Aug. 30, or you may call 358-2895. You may also email Donna Hickman at

Orders of five or more may be delivered. Drive-through orders can be obtained the day of the barbecue as well, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., for as long as they last. The barbecue will be at Serenity Hospice Care inside the entrance to Mineral Area College. Those who wish may also download an order form from

Make your checks out to United Way of St. Francois County, but don’t wait too long to send in your order — the re will only be 1,500 of these plates, and they are bound to sell out quick.

Proceeds from the meals will fund the administrative costs of the United Way.

“This helps us continue our commitment that 100 percent of what an individual gives by payroll deduction, direct donations and holiday wishing well goes toward grants to local agencies.”

The three chefs say the mission of United Way is something they can really get behind, and they are looking forward to the event.

“There is so much goodness in our community, it overwhelms me sometimes,” Thomas said. “I hope we sell out. This is such a great cause.”

Thomas grew up in Arkansas which he pointed out is the same thing as saying he grew up around barbecue.

Real barbecue. Which means smoking pits. And charcoal. Not to mention, real slow cooking.

“When some people say barbecue they really mean grilling, and they’re talking about hamburgers and hot dogs,” he said. “When we talk about barbecue, it’s usually smoking the meat at a low temperature for a long period of time.”

Thomas’ pulled pork is smoked for 14 hours. It won’t be shredded until right before it’s served. “That way it’s fresh for the consumer,” he said.

Thomas recently expanded his barbecue abilities, purchasing a 28-foot-long trailer that made a surprise appearance at Country Days this year.

But he still thinks of his barbecue train as “just a hobby.”

“It’s a large hobby,” he says. “A hobby that’s almost grown out of proportion, but it’s fun, and it’s a solid compliment when people will call you and ask, hey will you smoke this for me? We smoke turkeys at Christmas for friends and family.”

Thomas said he’ll likely do more barbecue events in the future, as the spirit moves him, since he’s got the new trailer and all. But the main reason he’s done this is to have the ability to respond to small disasters.

“There are times in these small disasters with power outages, people need food,” he said. “We’ll be able to go and help people. That’s one of the main reasons we put the smoker on the trailer.”

The pulled pork recipe will be amazing and deservedly comes highly recommended, but don’t put down your fork just yet. Greif will be bringing his award-winning chicken, and you’ll definitely want to save some room for that.

His chicken recipe is just a little different than your typical wing deal, but it’s been voted a crowd favorite in previous competitions. In one bite, you’ll know why. It’s got a tangy tasty garlicky bite that begs you to take just one more little wing. It’s not a spicy hot recipe, but it will grab your taste buds’ attention.

Greif’s father had a little rib shack in front of his own dad’s business back in the 60s, and that’s how he came to know and love good barbecue.

“That rib shack was how he got through college,” Greif says. “So we just kept working on that, and he taught us how to do it.”

His dad was the master at ribs, and Greif can do them, too, but he himself likes barbecuing chicken best. More specifically, he’s a big fan of barbecued chicken thighs.

The bone in a thigh and the dark meat combine to give them that over-the-top flavor that makes many a foodie flip, but for this event Greif will be doing boneless chicken breast and wings, equally good in their own ways.

“It’s a different wing, it’s not your typical recipe,” he said. “It’s kind of got a Greek seasoning.”

Last, but definitely not least, Jim Hart will bring an uncommon barbecue recipe that he’s been perfecting over a lifetime, peppered pork tenderloin.

“Pork tenderloin is just a really good piece of meat,” Hart said. “I’ve been doing them for years. You can’t really mess them up.”

Smoky and sweet, these tender bites taste great with a little dipping sauce — a specialty of Hart’s wife, and available on store shelves at Country Mart.

Barbecuing started out being a weekend sport for Hart, something he enjoyed doing to relax and unwind.

“I don’t know how I really got involved in it, except Rob and I bought a cooker together, and I probably started doing more of it then,” he said.

Their partnership was ultimately inspired by a cooker Hart had mounted on a golf cart. He and Thomas were doing a first cookout together for the St. Francois County Men’s League.

“We cooked the ribs and put them all on that golf cart and went humping through the grass with it, smoking,” Hart recalled. “From that we bought one together.”

Hart and Thomas no longer barbecue together as Hart has retired and wants to keep his barbecuing strictly small-scale, but Hart and his wife continue to sell their own sauce.

It’s a sweet and smoky affair, with just a little kiss of hot chipotle bang.

“My wife actually makes the sauce,” Hart says. “It’s meant to be more of a dipping sauce than a barbecue sauce. A little of it lasts a long time.

Hart’s dipping sauce came about as Jim and his wife were watching a cooking show purportedly showing show how to do ribs in two hours.

“It didn’t really work, but the sauce was kind of interesting,” Hart said. “There were some things we liked, and some we didn’t. Ann messed around with it, and after about two years we had completely changed it around. We started making it for friends and giving it away. It really got out of hand, we couldn’t keep up.”

That was when they decided they should just go into business with it, and the rest, as they say is barbecue history.

Diners surely won’t want to miss out on this chance to taste some of the best barbecue in the Parkland. After all, it’s not every day you can be a hero and help such an exceptional cause just by eating some exceptional food.

Renée Jean can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 117 or at

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