How Soul & Smoke became a Chicago barbecue juggernaut

When co-owners D’Andre Carter and Heather Bublick talk about creating their concept for Soul & Smoke barbecue and comfort food, it seems anything but intentional. The couple quit their jobs at the former Moto gastronomic institution to focus on hosting underground tasting dinners in their apartment. As the demand for their cuisine increased, they created a catering business called Feast & Imbibe to create menus for events. And when customers started asking for food to drop off, they developed a comfort food focused menu that formed the foundation of the Soul & Smoke concept, built around Chef Carter’s love of barbecue.

“It was already part of me. It was part of what we did for a weekend, ”says Carter, explaining his passion for barbecue. “It was how you celebrated any occasion that came up.”

Carter’s love for cooking was nurtured by his grandmother. As the oldest grandchild, he often helped her prepare Sunday meals for her extended family at her home on the south side of Chicago. He landed his first job at an Olive Garden restaurant and fell in love with the adrenaline rush of working in a kitchen. Eventually, he attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and obtained an internship with chef Homaro Cantu’s Moto, where he rose through the ranks to the position of executive sous-chef.

It was at Moto that Carter first met Bublick, a Rogers Park native who also did an internship at the gourmet restaurant (before joining the front desk staff) while attending Kendall College Culinary School. . When they founded Feast & Imbibe together in 2013, they were a couple, working hand in hand on the menus and logistics of their business.

“When we launched Feast & Imbibe, we didn’t know we were going to be caterers,” Bublick explains. “We were so obsessed, especially at the very beginning, with making sure that the food we prepared did not have the characteristics of a caterer. “

For years Soul & Smoke was just a user-friendly menu option offered by Feast & Imbibe, but Carter and Bublick always had the ambition to start offering their barbecue at farmers’ markets and other public events. . Those plans were accelerated when the pandemic struck and months of restoration instantly wore off.

Photography: Neil Burger

While Soul & Smoke became one of the first Chicago-area vendors to offer free community meals for José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, Carter and Bublick also began offering take-out in their little one. Evanston’s kitchen. In September, a Soul & Smoke-branded food truck began hauling ribs, macaroni and cheese, and other comfort food to diners in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. In early 2021, Soul & Smoke offered delivery from the Avondale and South Loop ghost kitchens.

If you taste a few bites of Soul & Smoke’s tender brisket or their gooey mac and cheese, it’s easy to see why Carter and Bublick were able to expand their business beyond Evanston so quickly. But even after spending years developing her recipes, Carter’s perfectionist tendencies have led to continual changes, from developing a smoked turkey broth used in her collar vegetables to replacing the noodles used in her macaroni and cheese. less than three times.

The day the Tribune meet again [of Soul & Smoke] was published, D’Andre decided he needed a new smoker because the ribs and pulled pork weren’t good enough – the article only talked about the brisket, ”Bublick says, describing her husband’s belief that Soul & Smoke’s food can always be improved. .

Soul & Smoke at Time Out Market Chicago
Photography: Jaclyn Rivas

Chef Carter’s latest tweaks to his dishes echo throughout Soul & Smoke establishments, including a kitchen at Time Out Market Chicago, where you’ll find brisket, pulled pork, and hot ties served with dishes like shrimp and oatmeal or grilled jerk chicken. The recent expansion of the Fulton Market food hall is the latest step in Carter and Bublick’s plans for their business, which include the purchase of a second Soul & Smoke food truck and the eventual opening of a dining hall. in the same building that houses their kitchen. in Evanston (awaiting city approval).

The reopening of Chicago has allowed Carter and Bublick to resume a limited dining schedule through their Feast & Imbibe business, but the couple are devoting more and more time to operating their Soul & Smoke kitchens, allowing Carter to continue. perfecting his barbecue techniques while cooking some of the same dishes he used to help his grandmother prepare.

“Feast & Imbibe was challenging me, but Soul & Smoke was very easy for me,” Carter says. “It’s just the perfect food that I grew up eating.”

Order Soul & Smoke at its kitchens in Evanston, Avondale and South Loop, keep an eye on its food truck schedule, or stop by its location at Time Out Market Chicago, open Wednesday through Sunday.

About Erick Miles

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