By Steven C. Sharek
Director of Outreach and Development, Minuteman High School
On weekdays, he serves as the top administrator at an award-winning regional high school. On weekends, he puts on an apron and hat and becomes an award-winning barbecue chef.
It’s probably safe to say that Dr. Edward A. Bouquillon, superintendent of Minuteman High School, is unique among the ranks of area school superintendents, sharing passions for both vocational-technical education and barbecue cooking. Several times a year, those passions overlap.
That’s when you can smell smoked beef brisket in the air at Minuteman High School and on the superintendent’s clothes. That’s when Dr. Bouquillon—known simply as “Dr. B” to the students at Minuteman—teaches meat cutting, authentic barbecue preparation, and the use of barbecue sauce, brines, injects, and rubs to students in the Culinary Arts program at Minuteman.
Welcome to what’s known as “Dr. B’s BBQ Institute.”
“I like to share what a BBQ judge would look for,” he says, wearing a barbecue chef’s jacket and trademark hat.
Dr. B. knows what judges look for because he’s cooked at BBQ competitions and has been a judge himself. He’s gone to BBQ competitions all over the country and has won trophies, ribbons, and certificates. He’s a member of the Northeast Barbecue Society (which runs BBQ grilling classes at the Maynard Rod and Gun Club), the Kansas City Barbecue Society, and the Memphis Barbecue Network.
During the first week in April, Bouquillon led a team of Minuteman Culinary Arts students in preparing nearly 300 pounds of beef brisket and 15 racks of ribs for an authentic barbecue buffet to be served in the school’s student-run restaurant. Under his direction, they added specific amounts of honey, rub, and spices to the ribs and pork butts. During the cook, they sprayed the meat with apple juice. The ribs would be on the smoker for four hours and the pork butt for eight, Bouquillon estimated.
Beef brisket prepared the day before was slow-cooked for 16 hours on Bouquillon’s personal smoker, a black, barrel-shaped, six-foot-long metal tank fueled by apple wood and lump charcoal. The smoker operates at surprisingly low heat—220 degrees for most meats. “It’s authentic,” he says. “No electricity, no propane. It’s real and it takes time, attention, and skills I want my kids to learn.”
In addition to this special annual event—probably the seventh or eighth, he guesses—the superintendent also oversees “Dr. B.’s BBQ Break” once every semester. The event recognizes the class with the highest attendance rate of the quarter and rewards the students with a free barbecue meal cooked by Culinary Arts students under his supervision.
How did Bouquillon acquire this flair for barbecue? He explains it this way: 35 years ago when he was a student and friends had an event, he was always asked to help with the food, so he started roasting pigs in cinder block pits. After earning a B.S. in animal sciences and a master’s in animal industries, he taught in an agricultural high school and then became a school administrator. About 10 years ago, he started entering barbecue competitions at Minuteman, and appreciates the family atmosphere prevalent in the BBQ culture.
Bouquillon hopes to break ground on a new high school building by early this summer. But before that happens, he’ll be off to his first barbecue festival of the season in Ridgefield, Conn., on May 6-7 and the Memphis in May International Festival on May 17-20 for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. He’ll be competing as a member of the Bare Bones BBQ Team in Memphis.
Bouquillon also has his own team, with its own logo, its own T-shirts, and barbecue sauces and base rub. His team is called Big Head Ed BBQ, a self-effacing name he coined to describe his own cranium. He’s proud of the growing popularity of barbecue and efforts to create BBQ cooking competitions just for youngsters, known in the field as “kids’ Q”. He hopes to have his grandchildren competing with the team this summer.