I met with Derrick and Korin Burnett, owners of Back Porch BBQ & Grill in La Grange, at the restaurant on their day off. Instead of propping their feet up for some well-deserved rest, the husband and wife team were overseeing a paint crew that was updating the restaurant’s exterior, a landscape crew constructing an outdoor eating area complete with a stage for music, and the construction of a new smokehouse for the barbecue pits.
“There’s never a day off—or a dull moment—in the restaurant business,” Derrick said. “Of course, it’s all worth it when you get to do what you love with the people you love every day.”
Korin added, “We couldn’t do this without our families and our incredible staff members who have become part of our family. Together we’re making our dream of owning a successful restaurant come true.”
RTR: The first dish you ever cooked?
Derrick: Spaghetti and meatballs. I have an Italian heritage.
Korin: I honestly don’t remember.
Derrick: That’s why I cook. I have food memories.
RTR: Which television cooking show would you want to star in?
Derrick: BBQ Pitmasters.
Korin: I want to be on that one with you.
RTR: Who is your celebrity chef crush?
Korin: Curtis Stone, the blonde Australian.
Derrick: Giada or Paula Deen. I’d marry Paula Deen for her cooking. She’s a temptress with butter.
RTR: If you could eat only one food forever what would it be?
Korin: Ribeye steaks and baked potatoes.
Derrick: The same or maybe a sandwich. I love anything between two slices of bread.
RTR: Must-have kitchen gadget?
Derrick: Blender. I should do a testimonial for my cheap $20 blender. It’s saved me so many times.
Korin: Digital thermometer. Too many people overcook their food. Internal temperatures don’t lie.
RTR: Kitchen pet peeve?
Derrick: I hate a dirty, cluttered kitchen. Even when we’re slammed, I’ll stop and wipe things down.
Korin: Things not being where they are supposed to be.
RTR: What is the one thing people don’t understand about running a restaurant?
Korin: In a barbecue restaurant, we start the day before. Because of the nature of our product, we can’t add more at the last minute.
Derrick: We only cook so much, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
RTR: Favorite ingredient?
Derrick: Garlic. It’s my Italian background.
Korin: Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning.
RTR: Signature dish?
Derrick: Baby back ribs. They sell out every day.
Korin: Our Asian-inspired Porch Slaw and our Porch Potatoes, a potato salad that’s more like twice-baked potatoes than traditional potato salad.
RTR: Best time-saving tip?
Korin: Prep everything ahead of time.
Derrick: Mise en place. When you have everything ready, then it’s just a matter of building a dish. It’s faster and it’s fun. When we’re cooking at home, our girls like to pretend they’re TV chefs. Prep is the key for those at home TV experiences. And clean up as you go… .
RTR: Would you eat dessert first?
Derrick: Korin would eat dessert first. My idea of dessert is a cheeseburger.
Korin: He’s not kidding. One year for his birthday I stacked cheeseburgers on a platter and put candles on them.
RTR: Best meal ever?
Derrick: Shrimp and grits in Charleston, South Carolina I ate them at every meal while we were there.
Korin: A salad at one of Tom Colicchio’s restaurants in New York. The balance of flavors expanded my appreciation for what a chef can do. I mean it was just a freakin’ salad, yet I still have dreams about it.
RTR: What will never cross your lips?
Derrick: Little green English peas. Honestly that’s the only food I won’t eat.
Korin: Mayonnaise. I hate mayonnaise.
RTR: It’s midnight. You’re hungry. What do you grab?
Korin: Peanut M&Ms.
Derrick: Anything cold. Pizza, Chinese food, fried chicken—or a sandwich. I love anything between two slices of bread.
RTR: Favorite thing about running a restaurant?
Derrick: Cooking. I got into the restaurant business because I love cooking.
Korin: I love to plan things and to create. I enjoy creating a space and an experience where people leave happier than they came in.
RTR: What’s the biggest challenge of running a restaurant?
Derrick: Everything but the cooking… .
Korin: Not having a crystal ball. It would help to know ahead of time how many people are going to come in or whether a staff member is going to get sick or a delivery truck is going to be late… .
RTR: What dish intimidates you?
Korin: Maybe something really fancy and French.
Derrick: Baking is my kryptonite. I can do it, but I’m just not good at it.
RTR: Favorite sandwich?
Derrick: Fried chicken, bacon, cheese, grilled onions with ranch dressing on bread that’s been buttered and toasted on the flat grill.(Korin had stepped away for a moment, but Derrick assured me she was tired of sandwiches.)
RTR: Your dog-eared cookbook?
Korin: Any of the Southern Living cookbooks.
Derrick: I love those random ones. You know, church cookbooks, pot luck cookbooks. There’s some gems hidden in those pages.
RTR: Favorite food memory?
Derrick: Cooking ribs or steaks with Dad or eating my mom’s fried chicken after church on Sundays.
Korin: Holidays—and the way the tastes, smells and memories go together.
Back Porch BBQ started on the Burnetts’ back porch in a Houston suburb. The demands of Derrick’s oilfield job kept him on the road, and the fast pace of professional events planning kept Korin on a tight schedule. On weekends the couple unwound by cooking pit-smoked barbecue for family and friends on their back porch. It was a labor of love.
Realizing that the hectic pace of their lives would only escalate as their daughters got older, the Burnetts rethought their priorities. They wanted to start a business where they could work together. Although they didn’t have a single hour of restaurant experience between them, they shared a love of cooking and hospitality, so the food industry seemed like a perfect fit.
Derrick had grown up competition cooking alongside his dad, so he had an array of barbecue techniques in his repertoire. As an event planner, Korin, who also has an MBA, had experience with the nuts-and-bolts organization and scheduling of the hospitality business.
“We just jumped off a cliff holding hands,” Korin said.
For much of her life, Korin’s family owned property between La Grange and Giddings, so La Grange was a natural destination. Initially, the couple tried to buy an existing restaurant, but the deal fell through. Disappointed, they kept looking and found an old homestead that offered an ideal business location.
“Our first inclination was to demo the house or give it away,” Korin said. “Then we were struck by the charm of the home and the possibilities of what we could do with it.”
Derrick added, “We didn’t know if refurbishing the old house would work or if it made sense financially, but it made the best sense on an emotional level.”
They knew they had made the right decision when they opened the restaurant early for the grandchildren of the home’s original owners. They smiled when they saw that their grandmother’s kitchen door was still hanging where it always had.
Their doors opened to the public in April 2012. The reception was warm and welcoming. The couple attributes their success to their handmade, high-quality Texas comfort food.
“We make everything in house from the salad dressings and the sides to our three distinct barbecue sauces,” Derrick said. “While it’s easier and cheaper to just open a tub and dump something out, we pride ourselves on fresh, hand-crafted food. People respond to quality.”
The couple serves up brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, chicken breasts and sausage plus the sides including two types of coleslaw and their unique Porch Potatoes. They’ve also put a Texas twist and offer their smoked meats in tacos, nachos and salads. In addition, grill items such as hand-formed cheeseburgers are available. The offer bottled beer, daiquiris and will soon unveil a new wine list.“When people come to Back Porch BBQ, we want them to have good food and a good time with good people,” Derrick said.
Hold the Mayo Please
Potato salad and cole slaw go with barbecue like peanut butter goes with jelly, but Korin loathes mayonnaise.
“I hate mayonnaise,” Korin said. “Have you ever thought about how many foods contain mayonnaise? I have to avoid entire food groups.”
Her dislike of the creamy condiment spurred her to re-envision the traditional versions of potato salad and cole slaw as she was developing the Back Porch’s menu. The results? A vinegar-based, Asian-influenced cole slaw and a potato salad that closely resembles cheesy, buttery, bacon-laden twice-baked potatoes.
Derrick likes mayo. One weekend when Korin wasn’t working, he whipped up a batch of traditional creamy cole slaw and offered it as a special. It sold out.
“I didn’t broach adding mayonnaise in the cole slaw until I could prove that people would buy it,” Derrick said laughing. “Mayonnaise is a touchy subject.”
Today, the couple offers both the vinegar-based Porch Slaw and the traditional Creamy Slaw.
“I taste test everything we make in the restaurant except the Creamy Slaw,” Korin said. “Derrick’s on his own with that one.”
- 8 medium baking potatoes, about 4 pounds
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1 pint sour cream
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (divided use)
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions (divided use)
- 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled, for garnish
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pierce potatoes and place on baking pan. Bake for about an hour, until very soft.
Cut in half and scoop out potato (Tip: Save the skins for a potato skin appetizer.) Add softened butter, sour cream, 1/2 the green onions, 1/2 the bacon and 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
Combine (don’t mash), add salt and pepper, and stir again.
Spray a 13” x 9” baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and place potato mixture in dish. Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese for the last five minutes of baking and garnish with green onions and bacon before serving. It’s also delicious served cold.
Back Pork BBQ & Grill
1602 N. Jefferson
La Grange, Texas 78945
Take-out and catering available.
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.*
Thursday – Saturday
11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.*
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.*
*The restaurant closes early if it sells out and stays open late for special events.
Hand-crafted barbecue is a restaurateur’s challenge. To produce savory, fork-tender brisket, owner and pit master Derrick cooks the meat “low and slow” over oak coals for at least 15 hours, meaning he has to plan quantities and begin preparing the meat the night before it’s served. Because of the long lead time required to cook barbecue, it’s impossible to just “throw some more meat on the pit” if supplies run low.
If you’re planning a party and want to ensure you’ve got plenty of Back Porch BBQ for your family and friends, Derrick and Korin suggest calling the day before so they can put extra on the pit to accommodate you.
by Lorie Woodward Cantu
photos by Dixie Ray Hamilton, Dixie Ray Photography