WATERTOWN — McKinley D. McBride, a soldier from Texas who’s had five deployments, is bringing his home-cooked Texas-style barbecue to the north country with his new made-to-order business.
Mr. McBride, who has been a soldier for 19 years and is set to retire in a few months, has been stationed on Fort Drum for the last two years. He said he’s proud of his military career, but it’s his work in the kitchen that brings him perhaps more fulfillment, and people in Watertown are starting to take notice. He’s surprised and humbled to be filling what at times seems like a culinary void in the region.
Mr. McBride opened Meals With Mack in March, serving home-cooked authentic Southern barbecue to residents on and off post. From smoked ribs, chicken, salmon, fried catfish, macaroni and cheese and shrimp and grits, Mr. McBride is delivering fresh meals that take hours to prepare and cook from his home on North Pleasant Street. That’s the Southern technique and style, as his influence comes from growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. His grandfather taught him how to smoke and grill meat, while his grandmother and mother taught him how to cook macaroni and cheese, fry catfish and make shrimp and grits.
“Cooking is really my passion,” he said. “It’s therapeutic. I love being in the kitchen. It’s something I’ve always done.”
He’s been cooking for others for years. He would often invite other soldiers who missed their families over for Thanksgiving dinner, and they would tell him that people would pay $15 for a plate of his food. He didn’t believe it. When Meals With Mack started a few months ago, he bought a box with 250 containers he was going to serve his food in. Since then, he’s gone through five of those boxes.
“I’m very humbled,” he said. “I love doing it. I love cooking for people. I love serving people. That’s just who I am.”
Mr. McBride begins taking orders through Facebook on Mondays, and by Friday he stops taking them. He then goes to the store and buys the amount of food that was ordered and begins preparing the meals. He’ll season his meat with garlic salt, pepper, salt, onion powder, pork rub, Kick’N Chicken and Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning, which is a blend that he said adds some flavorful spice. He also uses liquid smoke, one of his favorites, to incorporate more flavor into the meat. Mr. McBride then gets up Saturday morning at around 5:30 a.m. and begins smoking his meat for hours.
On the grill, he uses indirect heat with hickory or mesquite wood chips. Ribs, for example, go directly on the grill for about 90 minutes, and then he’ll put them into a pan and cover them in foil. He’ll then finish the covered ribs on a second-level grill that isn’t as hot, which maintains the low-and-slow process. That’s called the Texas Crutch method, he said, and the goal is to trap all the flavors in the foil as the ribs continue to cook. The process can take between three and four hours, which optimizes the tenderness of the meat.
When the meals are done on Saturday, he’ll meet anyone who ordered from off post in the afternoon on Arsenal Street, and then he’ll go on post to meet the others. He takes pride in seeing the look on people’s faces when they eat his food.
“My grandfather believed in food being what we all connect through, and it’s passed down,” he said. “For me, that’s where I think food in itself outshines a lot of other things. Food tastes better when you’re having a conversation.”
Anyone interested in Mr. McBride’s food can message him their orders on his Facebook page, “Meals With Mack,” on weekdays. Or they can call him at 254-247-6771.