“I was always really surprised that people would come to a complete stranger’s house from the internet for food,” says Burt Bakman.
The real estate agent / barbecue aficionado behind Trudy’s Underground Barbecue is known for slinging Texas-style brisket from his San Fernando Valley backyard. But he said the above while seated in the dining room of his soon-to-open barbecue restaurant Slab in West Hollywood, contemplating the unconventional route he took to get here. He’s staring closely at the fat lining a thick slice of glistening brisket hanging from his fork, as he mercilessly inspects a sheet pan of half chicken, spareribs, pulled pork and brisket that will be Slab’s signature combo when the restaurant opens later this month.
Bakman draws fans from as far as the Bay Area for his Texas-style barbecue, the carnivorous spoils of his signature copper-green smoker, and an 18-plus-hour exercise in patience and temperature control. The meat is covered in a rich yet rudimentary dark bark of salt, pepper and mustard, which encases deep pink to pale taupe flesh that weeps warm, clear fat with each slice of the blade or poke of the finger.
A work trip to Austin for a real estate conference solidified Bakman’s obsession with perfecting Texas-style barbecue. He ended up skipping the conference entirely in favor of bouncing around the city to try as much barbecue as he possibly could. Bakman learned by trial and error, making brisket and giving it away to friends, honing his craft and reaching out to another self-taught pit master, Texas’ Leonard Botello of Truth Barbecue — No. 10 on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints list — for guidance and insight. “He’s my smoker brother No. 1!” Bakman says now.