I sat down on a wooden bench in front of a simple mountain lodge in the Italian mountains with a marvellous view of the valley beneath. The bench was not comfortable at all, but after a three hour hike up the mountain, it was a most pleasant commodity. Feeling hungry and thirsty, I asked the innkeeper for cold beer and pasta – the only item on the menu. A few minutes later he returned with paper cups and plastic plates. For a moment I was wondering what had happened to this rich culinary culture that I used to assume in the mediterranean; but given the fact that I was at least an hour away from any alternative source of food, I picked up my plastic fork and dug into the pasta.
To this day I cherish the memory of once having had the perfect Italian pasta: the noodles were cooked to a precise point of absolute excellence, the tomato sauce, with its impeccable balance of sweetness, acidity and spiciness, perfect consistency, crunchy pieces of onion and tender chunks of tomatoes was exceptional. There was nothing to add or subtract to elevate the experience: no need for comfortable seating, white linen, porcelain or sterling cutlery.
A recent chat with Christopher O’Connor, an opera singer by trade and the owner of Pignut BBQ in Berlin, provided me with a good metaphor to describe my mountaintop epiphany: a perfect opera hall with the best acoustical engineering will not elevate an average voice to greatness. It is the training of the vocalist, his skill to precisely deliver the perfect tone at the perfect moment, over and over again, that makes a great singer.
In the same sense it is not the decorative arrangement of micro-greens next to a whimsical mains topped with rose-perfumed water spheres that elevate a meal to greatness. It is the talent of the chef, his careful selection of raw materials, his skill of balancing flavours and precise timing, that makes great food.
With his respect for honest culinary craft, his and his team’s attentiveness and the simple perfection of their food, Christopher has found the right tone that has earned Pignut BBQ a legendary status among his audience at Berlin’s Arminiushalle and KaDeWe’s 6th floor food hall. The menu offers a rhapsody of Hickory smoked Pulled Pork, Spare Ribs and Brisket with outstandingly delicious starters and sides and, of course, the world’s best ketchup.