Family barbecues were embedded in Chef Dan Gibson's upbringing. His father tended to the ribs, his aunt whipped up a scrumptious macaroni and cheese, and his uncle provided a must-have mustard sauce. As Gibson grew older, the barbecue reins passed on to him. But his passion for the technique went beyond food-friendly social gatherings. It pushed Gibson to seek formal culinary training and led to his former title of pitmaster at Mac's Speed Shop. These experiences fueled his current career move as chef and pitmaster at Queen City Q (225 E. 6th St.; 704-334-8437. www.queencityq.com), a recently opened barbecue restaurant in Uptown.
Creative Loafing: You went to culinary school, but your family submerged you in cooking from an early age. How have both styles of cooking made you the chef you are today? Do you think a proper education at a culinary school is an invaluable experience?
Dan Gibson: The two do play hand in hand. The fine dining background allows me to have a working knowledge of how things should come together, and as simple as barbecue sounds, a chef's edge is in making sure it's as good as it possibly can be. Education from a culinary school is an incredibly valuable thing. I know a lot of guys that did not go to culinary school, but I think it's a strong foundation, and I recommend it to anybody who's wanting to get into this business. They just kind of steer you in the right direction, and you don't just kind of wander into the business aimlessly.
A lot of the items on your menu are derived from your family's recipes. What is your favorite family recipe?
It's a big toss-up. I really love my Aunt Nelle's mac and cheese. That was a favorite that we went to for the Christmas and the summer reunions on my mother's side of the family. Nobody even brought other mac and cheese, it was just so good. And my mother's baked bean recipe, with the Neeses' country sausage and a few other ingredients that she put in there, just kind of set them apart from your normal baked beans.
What is your personal touch to the "The Best Mac and Cheese" on your menu?
Aunt Nelle's mac and cheese is fairly close to her original recipe. Like a lot of chefs, you take what you grew up on and you don't try and make it better; you just kind of put your own little twist on it. What I do really, is I just tend to make a lot more of it. I make a blend of Monterey Jack cheese and sharp cheddar, whereas Aunt Nelle just used straight up sharp cheddar cheese, and that was probably more of an old-school kind of recipe. The Monterey Jack I find mellows the macaroni and cheese out and I think it just kinda gives it a well-rounded, full-bodied flavor.