It's the most frequently asked question by Cookhouse customers. Is he here tonight? Can we meet him? What does he look like? Where did he learn to cook like this? Just how fat is he?
Fat Tommy holds the distinguished scholar's chair at The Cookhouse. He's kind of shy. He drives an old rusty truck with a Smithfield pork butt hanging from the rearview mirror in case he needs an emergency snack. He prefers to work at night, mostly late, mostly alone, putting hickory, apple and oak logs into the smoker and watching his barbecue. He does sip a beer or two. And, maybe a little bourbon. He wasn't always shy. Or corpulent. Not until he started studying barbecue. As he puts it, "after a couple of years travelin' and tastin' i just swole up like a poisoned puppy."
"I did it for the people," he says, "Someone has to preserve the secrets of great southern barbecue. Anyways, I ain't really fat, I'm just wide for my height," he tells friends.
So, if Rob is the boss of The Cookhouse and Miss Darlene is in charge of ambiance, what is fat Tommy's role? He's the spiritual leader. He has eaten more barbecue than any two people alive, and his expertise is clear to the staff. He loves honest food or as he puts it, "honest food for real people." So, he sneaks around tasting the food and making sure customers are getting value. Lord have mercy if he finds something that's less than great coming out of The Cookhouse kitchen.
Some of our customers have seen him. A few have actually talked to him. One longtime customer, a widow-lady in her 80s, told Rob she thought fat Tommy was "a fine figure of a man" and demanded to know just what his relationship with miss Darlene was. But, that's a story for another time. So, yes, Virginia, there is a fat Tommy. And, he exists in the hearts of barbecue lovers everywhere. Or, at least those here at The Cookhouse.