Lying on his back in a Washington DC hospital bed, barbeque was probably the last thing on Patrick Feges' mind. He was a member of the Army 217th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, "Second to none."
"I was stationed in Korea about ten miles south of the DMV, Camp Casey, Camp Hovey", he begins, "I was there for about eight months, then we got deployed to Ramadi, Iraq cause they were downsizing the force in Korea and they figured, let's make a pit stop in Iraq", he chuckles as he finishes. "So then I made it three months in Iraq before I got injured. A mortar landed about twenty feet away and a piece of shrapnel severed my iliac artery ... well it tore up my intestines and what not and then severed the artery. I essentially bled to death; technically I died twice on the table, I received thirty two units of blood according to military records. I was out for a week, like, unconscious for a week, and then I woke up in the hospital in Washington DC where I was in the hospital for five more weeks until I was discharged from the hospital, ten months later I was discharged from the Army."
Towards the end of his grueling recovery, while in a hospital in San Antonio Texas, Patrick got his first push towards acquiring the barbecue bug. Another patient staying in the hospital who was being discharged had an old, beat up, upright Brinkman smoker and, instead of taking it home with him, he gave it to Patrick.
"I brought that home and I would play around with it, doing brisket and what not, cause that's always been my favorite thing to eat. Looking back on it, it was just terrible; I had no idea what I was doing."
Being a cook in the Army did not exactly inspire him to continue cooking after his discharge, "I got kind of jaded doing that, cause it sucks. I came back home, and I didn't really want to cook, and I thought about maybe being a teacher, so I got a job at an after school program at an elementary school and it was the best job I ever had. I got paid to play basketball and kickball with a bunch of fifth graders. After a while though, I kind of slowly got back into cooking at home, experimenting with different things. It just so happened that one of the dads of the kids in the program was a chef. So I talked to him and decided, yeah I'm gonna do this, and I enrolled in the Texas Culinary Academy, the Cordon Bleu, in Austin. That's where I got into barbecue."
Living and going to school in Austin put Feges in the proximity of, arguably, some of the finest barbecue establishments in Texas. He started going to Franklin Barbecue and Stubbs' in Austin and Black's BBQ in Lockhart to the south, which is still his favorite. He adopted the old school, post oak wood, salt and pepper, simpler is better train of thought and has worked at honing his skills ever since through a combination of experimentation and independent research. Six months ago he was finally able to purchase a large smoking rig and trailer; in those six months he has managed to put over a thousand pounds of meat through it. This is no small feat considering he works close to sixty hours a week as a line cook at Underbelly.
"It's hard, you know, cause my number one priority is (Underbelly). Right now, it's more of a free time type thing, trying to build a reputation, taking small gigs where I can. I've had people ask me to do catering gigs in the future, but that's something I'll have to ask about, you know, see if it's even possible. That's why the Grand Prize thing is great cause I can do it on my day off, when the restaurant's closed."
Patrick will be taking over the Grand Prize kitchen on March 10 and March 23. Right now his specialty is brisket and pulled pork, though he is working towards perfecting and expanding into sausage, ribs, boudin, and poultry in the near future. To read more about Patrick, follow this link. He is another example of the burgeoning culinary talent we are lucky enough to enjoy here in Houston.
· Feges BBQ [Facebook]