Rocker Bros. Interview: Burt Bakman
There are days when it feels like no one is spending as much time around beef as we here at Rocker Brothers do. A notable exception might be Burt Bakman, the Israeli-born L.A. pitmaster behind Trudy’s Underground BBQ and SLAB in West Hollywood. His Texas-style brisket takes over 18 hours to transform into its celebrated smoky sublimity. So we sat down with Bakman to better understand his philosophy and how Rocker Bros. has helped to bring his cuisine to the next level in the first of our master chef interviews.
Hi Burt. What is your mission at SLAB?
I’m trying to bring our friends and neighbors the taste of Central Texas barbecue. For those who have been there to reminisce. For those who have not, to give them an idea of what’s out there.
What are you personally looking for in the meat you serve?
We’re looking for good quality meat for our guests. Meat that looks right and feels right. It’s not all the same. We’re looking for the right signals from the brisket when we inspect it, before prepping, trimming and getting it going. Fortunately for us, what Rocker Bros. sends us just about always meets everything we’re looking for.
And how does meat quality affect your job as a pitmaster?
We know that fat equals flavor, so we’re looking for the right kind of intramuscular fat that a cut like brisket has. Because it’s a working muscle. It’s a tough muscle. You have to be very patient when preparing it, especially in this Central Texas way. If I get cheaper cuts to save money and cut corners, say a low Choice or even a Select-grade, I’ll have less fat and less flavor. I’d be able to cook it, but I’d really just be cheating my guests.
How did you first get introduced to Rocker Bros.?
I used to buy my brisket at Costco. Then I was buying the majority of the brisket at Costco and after awhile I was completely buying out all the brisket at Costco. That’s when I needed a solid, reliable distributor that can deliver. And they reached out and they’ve been great to me. They really take care of me. Day or night, there’s always somebody there to help me out.
Which products do you buy from Rocker Bros?
Primarily brisket, of course. I also get a good share of spare and babyback pork ribs, as well as a lot of dry-aged beef. They have an amazing program. I’ve gotten some of the most beautiful tomahawks that I’ve seen from Rocker Bros. Also chicken and fish. Then there are things I like to play with in my downtime, like the lamb necks and scallops. I feel like they have everything.
What’s your favorite cut?
I love the dry-aged Washugyu rib eye steaks. Their marbling, their flavor, they’re great.
What are the advantages of working with Rocker compared to other meat distributors?
The difference for me is that they care for their customers. They want us to put out the best products at an affordable and accessible price point. You can bring in other distributors with rarer beef at a much higher price point, but when we’re looking to sustain and feed guests, they have a great product. I’m sure other companies offer great service, I’ve dealt with some of their competitors, which were fine, but the hands-on attention I get from the team at Rocker Bros. is what keeps me there.
What’s the experience of working with the staff at Rocker Bros.? Have you created any custom products together?
I’ve worked with the team over there hand-in-hand making custom blends for special events and parties. They’ve sourced certain beef for me, which was great. They are always there for you to speak with; for advice, for suggestions, for events you may have, for certain dishes you’re looking to put together, they’ve got great experience and a great customer base. And they are really a part of our team.
Have you given the company any feedback that has helped your relationship?
I really never have any issues to be honest. They always deliver and everything is good.
Photos by Dylan + Jeni: https://instagram.com/dylanandjeni?igshid=10kk69szthroq
Article by Hadley Tomicki: https://instagram.com/hadleytomicki?igshid=1s99xgckpxc9r
Presented by: https://instagram.com/rockerbrosmeat?igshid=4fx7ak1va9i2