Elite Spotlight : Giovanni Borges (Smok3hous3_bbq)
Infusing his Hispanic culture into traditional BBQ is the signature approach for pitmaster extraordinaire Gio Borges (@Smok3hous3_bbq). Accommodating his wife’s dietary restrictions while still creating explosive flavors has been a challenge, but it’s inspired plans for creating FODMAP-friendly commercial rubs. He sat down with Dalstrong to talk about weekend picnics on nearby islands, his advice for newbie influencers, and the one person he transports his grill to cook for.
What inspired you to start BBQing?
I started the brand over a year ago. I’ve always loved grilling and BBQing but never knew where it would take me. I never realized how big the BBQ community is. It’s been an awesome journey. I have a Hispanic background, and we love white rice, black beans, and fried foods. I try to incorporate Hispanic culture into my BBQ and to be different from everybody else.
I still do traditional stuff, but try to incorporate that Hispanic flavor. This weekend I did pulled pork with coleslaw, and I used tostones instead of bread. Tostones are slices of green plantains that are smashed and fried — typically a side dish. Then I put chimichurri sauce on top of it, which definitely took it to another level.
Since my wife has to have a low-FODMAP diet, I have to stay away from garlic and onions. I started creating my own rubs for her to eat BBQ. For a while, I was cooking separately for her, but now we can all enjoy it. I’m working on marketing the rubs for everyone to enjoy. BBQ is my passion. Everybody should love it. Watching my friends and family enjoy my food is one of my greatest thrills.
What new recipe or discovery are you excited about currently?
I discovered a new binder that is amazing and we can all enjoy. Most people use mustard and other binders, but I use garlic-infused olive oil (which is low-FODMAP). It creates a tremendous bark on the meat and more flavor than mustard. I use it for almost everything now.
What’s your favorite BBQ hack?
I love beef short ribs. I don’t wrap them at all to cook. I add garlic-infused olive oil as a binder and cook at a lower temp, about 225 degrees. I let it run the whole entire cook, spritz with beef broth, and towards the end, I wrap in foil for 30 minutes to rest. I've done it both ways, and in my opinion, it’s the way to go. I cook it straight through instead of wrapping it with butcher paper or foil.
When you’re not grilling, how are you spending your time?
I love to fish and get outdoors at least every other weekend. I have a boat, so we spend time on nearby islands here in South Florida, usually grilling with friends and family. We try to get out as much as possible and stay as active as we can. I have a son who’s 21 this year and my daughter is 19. She just started college this year. I play basketball with my son and enjoy watching college sports. I’m glad I’m young enough to enjoy my kids. My family means everything to me.
What are the BBQ tools you can’t live without?
I use the Shogun Series Butcher's Breaking Cimitar Knife and my Traeger smoker. I actually have three smokers, a griddle, and a grill. All of your knives are amazing. But this one in particular is my favorite.
I love the handle and the weight — the balance on the knife is amazing. It’s a big knife, but not too heavy. Anyone can use it. I can cut anything with it. When I first discovered Dalstrong it was through one of my friends. They had them, and I really wanted to work with you guys. I only had a few thousand followers, but I wanted it so badly, I kept working hard, and eventually, you took me on.
What do you look for in a partnership with a brand?
The main thing I look for in a brand I can represent is an awesome product. If someone buys a Dalstrong knife from me, they come back and say it's the best knife they’ve ever had. I bought Dalstrong knives before I was an ambassador and will never use another knife. I want a company that supports ambassadors and is very communicative and responsive. Always perfecting their process, wanting feedback on products, and reaching out to collaborate. That’s what I look for and love. Some companies just put the products out with no give and take.
Who are your cooking heroes?
Bennie Kendrick. He’s the most humble person, always does live videos on social media. He talks about how BBQ changed his life. He’s a person you could reach out to at any time. He’s part counselor, part BBQ guy. He talks about life and all the other things that matter, not just cooking. Another person is Gordon Ramsay. He’s just amazing. It’s funny how hard he is on people. But he gets results. I want to get to that level one day.
What are your passions beyond cooking?
I’ve been dying to skydive, but I'm extremely scared of heights. Maybe I’ll do it with my son and daughter one day. It’s on my list of things to do. I like anything really. If you invite me to do something, I’ll try it. I want to do as much as I can while I’m here.
If you could cook a meal for one person, who would it be?
My dad. He loves BBQ, so I cook for him any time I can. He’s about to turn 82 and lives about an hour and a half away. I take my grill up there and just cook for him. I’d love to cook for a movie star or sports legend, but my dad is everything.
Do you have any advice for chefs just starting or BBQers who want to up their game?
Learn your grill! It’s very important to manage the temperature on your grill. Be creative with your cooks. Include your culture, seasonings, side dishes, favorite drinks, special flavors. I try to go all out and appeal to everyone. Invest in a good thermometer.
Learn from people you like, and ask a lot of questions. Just start and don’t be afraid to mess up. Keep going until you perfect it. I tell everyone on Instagram, just be yourself, go out there do your thing. Be creative, be different, and people will follow. You can’t really compete with anybody else. I network with other influencers, and everyone is generous and helpful. I’m still learning all the time.
What would you choose for your last meal?
Brisket cooked to perfection. Because it’s so hard to smoke it to the right temp. It takes a lot of work and technique. A glass of red wine.
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Written by Abby Slate
Born and raised in the South, Abby lives by three things: bacon goes in everything, all food can (and should) be deep fried, and hush puppies are religion.