Pitmaster James Woodard Is Bringing Barbecue Back to Oakland — Cooking in America

(upbeat music) – Everyone’s all
exercising, making me feel– (laughter) We’re in Oakland. So in the 50s and 60s there
was a big migration of African American families
that came up from the south up to the west. And with that, Oakland became
this scene of barbecue heaven. But as the years went by,
all those barbecue joints started to fade off. We’ll be going to Smokin Woods Barbecue where James and his family is
smoking up Texas-style ribs, momma’s mac and cheese,
and all of that good stuff, what Oakland used to be. – Hey, how’s it going, man? Welcome to Smokin Woods. How you doing?
– Good, man. I’ve been obsessed with barbecue lately. When I heard we’re coming
to Oakland and we’re getting some real barbecue I was excited. What exactly, what do
you do at Smokin Woods? – Smokin Woods, I’m the
owner of Smokin Woods, we started out catering
about six years ago, opened this place up
about eight months ago. And here we are. – Smoking up what today? – [James] Some beef ribs. – [Sheldon] Straight up Texas, right? – Straight up Texas. But the treat today is
momma V’s mac and cheese. She’s here today and
she’s gonna be able to make it from scratch. – There’s nothing like mom’s touch. – Never had it like mom’s
touch, it’s the best. – Alright, let’s do it. Big old slab of–
– Angus beef short rib. So the thing about beef ribs,
they’re really really tender because of all that fat
and marble inside of them. Big nice dinosaur bones. – [Sheldon] Yeah, man. – This is our signature rub. That’s magic in here. Don’t ask me what’s in there, it’s magic. (upbeat music) – So from here straight into the smoker? – Here straight to the smoker. And there you have it,
we’ll let that go for about four and a half, five hours. – [Sheldon] What are you smoking over? – [James] Oak and cherry. – You didn’t start off
doing barbecue in a spot like this, right? – No I was a corporate guy at first. Grandpa cooked when we were kids, I always watched them use liquid smoke and spray it on stuff. As I got older I tried to
learn more about natural wood smoke and then my aunt
would always bring these ribs over for us, just dry rub, no sauce. My grandpa never used sauce either. That’s kind of how I got
into no barbecue sauce at all here. I was in Fresno at first for a while. Being out there, it’s a
little bit different as far as diversity goes. Came out to Oakland when
I was probably, say, about 14, 15 with my
aunt and I kind of just stayed here ever since. – You got your brother along with you too. – Got two brothers. So two brothers, so almost family-owned, so it pretty much is family-owned. My older brother got me into catering. Without him, I tell you, I
don’t know if this could’ve ever gotten off the ground. He cooks too. It’s a competition. (laughter) One of the best pitmasters I’ve ever seen. My younger brother he’s
just, he’s a monster. I don’t know what happened
to him, he’s like 6’4″, he’s like six feet and
here I am little 5’9″ guy, no one in between the two, right? Been great to have the
two along for the ride. – [Sheldon] That’s awesome. (upbeat music) – This is the woman of the hour, my mom. She has her famous mac and cheese. This is the recipe that we
use for all of our events. – You got three hungry boys, huh? – Yep, I sure do. – You said you learned
this from your mother. Where were they from? – My mother is from Louisiana,
my father’s from Mississippi, but they met in Fresno. – This something that you grew up with? – It is. We tried to imitate, but
it’s nothing like the source. – Alright momma, you’ve got
to show me how it’s done. Little bit of mozzarella. – Little bit. Little bit of sharp. You’re so sweet with it. (laughter) – You just wanna just throw it. – I was finna say, it’s like– – Pepper jack?
– Pepper jack. The cheese sauce, you can
just pour it on there. Okay now you’re gonna take the mild. One thing my boys like is cheese. – Telling him to put a little bit more? – Yeah, you need to put, yeah. – You being sweet with the cheese. – You’re being very sweet with the cheese. (laughter) – You guys always cook
together as a family? – The oldest one was the
one that took the lead. I was surprised when
James started cooking. – I know, right? – Brotherly competition, I get that. – He’s the one standing over there. (laughter) All three of them cook. I could die in peace. (laughter) – Let’s see what it’s all about. Smells great. Ooh. That looks good. Momma V’s mac and cheese. (upbeat music) (laughter) I’m gonna be right over here. That’s amazing. – Good, good, I’m glad you liked it. – Beef rib time?
– Beef rib time. (upbeat music) – [Sheldon] Ooh. Can see it kind of pulled
away from the bone. – They key there is, see how it’s jello? – Yeah, yeah, yeah. All those hours of slow cooking. (upbeat music) There you go, beautiful
smoke ring on top of it. Can see all the fat that’s in between. This is definitely my
favorite cut of barbecue. – The beef rib, yeah? – The beef rib.
– Mine too. – Let’s go sit down with some beers, man. – [James] Let’s do it. (upbeat music) – Barbecue has taken off
throughout this country. You see it on television,
your pitmasters have become rock stars. Even though it started
in the black community, you don’t see that much
black pitmasters anymore. – A lot of phone calls we get, we get, “Are you black-owned? Oh
I’ll be there right now. “I’ll be there right now.” They’re so excited
because it’s black-owned. It’s just nice to be
able to be recognized as a black business,
black-owned business, by all walks of life, by all cultures. They say that we love that you’re here, please don’t go anywhere,
your food’s amazing. It’s not a sport, it’s more of a craft. And for me and my family
we grew up barbecuing. Our family-style of flavor to your home. And that’s what it’s about,
small businesses in Oakland giving you an experience. My dad’s from Texas so it
was kind of implanted in us to cook southern food. So now we’re California-grown, but southern-born. What you gonna go to first? – Straight to the, I’ve
been waiting for the ribs for hours.
– Beef rib. Just pulls right apart, don’t it? – Pulls right off the bone like that. – Cheers.
– Oh cheers, man. (upbeat music) Perfect amount of smoke, light
seasoning over the top of it. It literally just like
melts in your mouth. That’s what’s great
about beef ribs, right? That fat that runs right through it. – Definitely. You get a chance to
try that sweet heat sauce? Californians love their
barbecue sauce too, but give that a try. – Super light, the perfect sweetness, and then the heat in the background. – There you go. – Not at first. At least you get to taste
the meat first and then that heat comes up in the back. – Momma V’s mac and cheese, huh? – That’s how mac and cheese
is supposed to taste. Keep your guys’ truffle
oils and your fancy– – Yeah, too much. Just need a little bit of just cheese. Barbecue has kind of changed, over the years Oakland has changed. A lot of people moving in,
a lot of people moving out. So I grew up with Flint’s. Flint’s Barbecue was the staple in Oakland. A lot of people who
originated barbecue in Oakland were predominantly African American. Over the years I watched
Flint’s kind of just disappear. Looking back I’m thinking
how you see barbecue back when I was a little kid. No barbecue sauce and
now days that’s kind of all we have. For us with a lot of
these big chains coming in and no barbecue being around, stepped up and said we’re gonna bring back barbecue to Oakland. Like it’s mainly just us
saying hey we’re here, this is what Oakland was about, we’re gonna continue this going forward. Bring back just classic barbecue, 100% wood-smoked barbecue. – So what does barbecue mean to you? – Barbecue to me means
creating smiles, good food. I mean that because I used
to watch my grandpa cook, he’d be like, he would
look back and he would laugh at me. Barbecue brings people
back, takes people back, it’s a different vibe. But I also knew we got
together as a family, we all smile. If I can put a smile on
your face with my craft, with my food, I did my
job, you know what I mean? – We’ve been through all
these different restaurants in Oakland and everyone
talks about change and the people coming in, too. But every single one of you guys, you guys are like stand by
each other and you guys are standing strong and
singing the same song of keeping Oakland Oakland. – Keep Oakland Oakland, that’s all, that’s what it’s about. I mean, ’cause you can, you
can allow the change to happen and you can adapt to it in
ways that can be positive and ways that can be negative. – The change needs to
come from within, right? – Staying here, finding a way
to keep that support going and supporting local. You support local your top
chefs, your top businesses will stick around. They always will. – Draymond Green to hold onto the ball. – Draymond Green to hold the ball. (laughter) Draymond Green to hold onto the ball. – Cheers, man, thank you
for sharing your story. Thank you for repping Oakland. – All the time, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. (upbeat music) – Elk is not very common,
but it’s very common to the people who life in Santa Fe. – They go hunting for it, so.

100 thoughts on “Pitmaster James Woodard Is Bringing Barbecue Back to Oakland — Cooking in America

  1. I'm from Hayward and I grew up on Everett & Jones BBQ. I'm definitely gonna have to check this place out because good BBQ is few and far between in the East Bay.

  2. What if someone called just to ask if its "White owned" to determine if they will go… I don't understand why race has anything to do with anything. Shouldn't be that way. If you have good food "people" will come no matter what the race is. I don't judge people by race but by how hard they work and how they treat others.

  3. Turkıs kebap.. 🙂 ADANA KEBAP,KUZU TANDIR KEBAP,DÖNER,ISKENDER KEBAP,ŞİŞ KEBAP .. Türkiye de yenir eminim yeme alışkanlığınız değişecek ve yaşama bir başka gözle bakacaksınız 🙂 Türkiye den Selamlar 🙂

  4. Me and these people come from the same place. I was born in Louisiana and I was raised in Mississippi. I went to San Francisco to study culinary arts and now I have a BBQ Joint too.Very kool we have so much in common..

  5. WOW! I just saw some of this guys Employees at Cash and Carry today picking up some Pork Ribs 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼

  6. God I miss Flints! Then Doug’s closed. Everett & Jones is fine but nothing special. I want to try this joint! Yah, Oakland!

  7. [Cough cough] BBQ didn't start with black folks. It started with my ancestors who came from Germany. My Jewish family smoked meat to preserve it instead of salting it. They were in Texas cattle ranching. They taught my Mexican Apache family. But I am glad when I see white people buy black owned BBQ. I make Tex Mex BBQ with my Yiddish-Apache flare.

  8. You have me crying. During the 80s when I lived in Alameda, I would eat in one of the BBQ places in Oakland, like Flints. Those were the good times. I miss the good food.

  9. I buy the ribs but the "mama" Mac cheese is just terrible industrial cheese and overcooked inferior pasta. I get it's fat and rich but I think it's several steps below a slow cooked rib from a a healthy animal

  10. That man and his brothers are role models for the Oakland community and aspiring entrepreneurs all over the world. Their mom seems like an amazing woman. My family will definitely stop by when we pass through. Food looks delicious…peace

  11. The BBQ we eat now was considered slop and was giving to the slaves and now white people took it and getting Rich off of it now….BUT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, who really cares right?

  12. Smokin' Woods is the truth! If you're in the Bay Area, this is the only BBQ spot that you need to go to!

  13. "I want my kids to be judged by the quality of their ribs, not by the color of the business owner" MLK Jr Jr Jr Sr

  14. I've had what's reputed to be one of the best beef ribs in the world, at Black's BBQ in Lockhardt, Texas; it was awesome. That beef rib looks better.

  15. Not a fan of beef ribs but my guy here cooked these to pefection! Next time I'm in the Bay Area I will be stopping by Smokin Woods BBQ to get ribs and mac and cheese!

  16. It wood be hot if the old lady but cheese on her body and she got to buisness with those guys regardless if the black guy is related to her or not

  17. The BBQ looks average but the sides look great. It's sad that there is such a strong focus on what ethnicity is making the food rather than the food itself.

  18. Yes. Texas BBQ. Most Texans didn't make it north. Those were the ones who came from Bama, Mississippi up through Chicago and Midwest then out to northern CA.

  19. I never went to a barbecue place where they make you pay for your barbecue sauce it is not good. They say they want you to taste the meet don’t have that great of a taste you need sauce.

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