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BBQ pro’s business caters to all

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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For Chef Dennis Edwards, barbecuing is a reflection of his Southern roots. “When I was about 12 years old, my dad bought a barbecue place and knew nothing about it,” he said recently. “But it had an old man who had been working there forever and he did all of it. I sat out there with him and learned how to barbecue.” Edwards, who lives in Cool, recently opened Xpressions Catering in Auburn, taking over the former Brown Bag commercial kitchen. His specialty is Southern style babyback ribs. “The ribs are very spicy with dry rub and the sauce is very sweet,” he said. “You add the two together and you get a very unique barbecue taste.” And he takes barbecuing very seriously. “I’ve been a competitive barbecuer for 37 years,” he said. “I’ve competed all over the South. We were doing this when the Food Network didn’t even think about it. Out of 110 contests, I have 66 ‘top threes.’” But those victories didn’t come immediately. “During the first two or three years, if there were 20 or 30 (entries), I’d place in the bottom three,” he said. “It got frustrating, so I started judging for several years. Through judging, I found out what they were looking for, and did relatively well ever since.” He still competes occasionally. Edwards moved to California about 17 years ago and until recently operated the Main Street Café and Grill in Cool. He sold it to concentrate on catering, officially opening the business on Oct. 1. Although barbecue is his speciality, that’s just part of the menu, he said . “We do breakfast, lunch and event catering,” he said. “We have several breakfast items and sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch. We can give you chicken cordon bleu for dinner or we can give you babyback ribs. We have a standard menu, but we’re very versatile chefs. Depending on your event or size of your event, we custom make it to your needs. We also know our limits.” Edwards is maintaining Brown Bag Catering’s client commitments as he builds the new business. “We’ve had one to two events every week already, and we’re booked through October,” he said. He decided to make the switch to catering from being a restaurant owner because it gives him more flexibility and more control over his time. “A friend of mine sold a law practice he had one time after fishing in Florida,” Edwards explained as an analogy. “He became a boat captain, because (he said) ‘people come to me when they want to have fun.’ We get to help people have fun. To me, that’s a pretty good business model.” In fact, love of cooking runs in the family. His son is a chef in San Antonio “I like any kind of hobby where you can eat your mistakes,” Edwards said. One of his clients was the American River Conservancy in Coloma. “(He did the catering for) our 20th anniversary celebration, called the Starthistle Ball,” said Elena DeLacy, conservation project coordinator for the conservancy. “We chose Dennis because he had provided us with catering services in the past and had donated his time and some food to a volunteer event. And he’s a very nice guy. The food was good. There were many challenges because it was an outdoor event. But (the food) was well presented, nice and warm.” Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.