Spotlight Interview: Al Wasserberger, Eat More Vegans
Self-proclaimed animal “bites” activist Al Wasserberger (@eatmorevegans) sat down with Dalstrong to chat about how he’s catching up to lifers in the BBQ community through passion, perseverance, and pragmatism. From having everything rigorously tested and reviewed by his daughter, to applying the latest science and strategy to his cooks, Al has carved out a path from business to BBQ. We asked him to share his insights on how to perfect a recipe, where he finds inspiration, and just how he’d react to finding tofu in the fridge.
Can you tell us about your background and what led you to Eat More Vegans?
I'm kind of an outsider in the barbecue community, because all of these folks were coming up through barbecue either learning from their families or on the competition circuit. I was off being a corporate guy, being one of the suits.
Tell me a bit about your experience in the BBQ community
It's been really great how I've been welcomed into the community since starting the channel and starting to share my knowledge. I think the other pitmasters appreciate the fact that I am really hardcore about being true to the recipe. I'm really hardcore about the right way to do things. I respect a lot of them and I'm not afraid to call them out. I think that's probably helped a little bit as well when I give them shoutouts about methods that I've learned from them. There are some of the nicest people on the planet in this community.
How do you spend your time when you’re not grilling?
When I'm not grilling, I'm probably thinking about grilling or planning to grill, and spending time with my daughter. I've got the most amazing daughter in the world. I'm lucky enough to have one who loves food and loves my cooking. A lot of other dads are jealous that my daughter will eat what I cook. Hanging out with her and the dog and really getting into off-roading which is kind of fun because now I get to take my Jeep off into the mountains or onto the beaches and do live fire cooking in environments like that.
Who are your cooking heroes?
There's a lot of people that I really look up to. The guy who is probably the biggest inspiration in my cooking is Pepin. Watched Jacques and Julia as a kid and the way he explains things, the way that he demonstrates them that you can understand, I think he's a big part of me deciding that I wanted to do this and wanted to teach. In the more modern world in the barbecue community, folks like Rodney Scott. Boy, if Rodney was a creator and publishing, I would watch every minute of everything he did multiple times. You can't be in the barbecue business and not feel like Tootsie Tomanetz is the person, the hero. She doesn't use a thermometer. I mean she touches her hand to the grill and knows that it's hot enough, touches her hand to the food and knows that it's ready. If I can live as long as she does and have half of the talent that she does when I get there, boy, I'd be a happy guy.
When you’re looking at partnerships, what do you look for?
The number one thing I look for in partnerships is a product that I would use or, in the case of Dalstrong, that I already used before I even started forming partnerships. I also want to make sure it’s a company that I would do business with or — again in the case of Dalstrong — have already been doing business with. When you do what I do and you're sharing knowledge and you're actually getting into details, people take that stuff seriously and if I say this is a knife that you should use, they're going to take my word for it and they're going to buy that knife. If I say this is how I light my grill, if I say this is the meat that I would cook with, they're going to go out and buy those things. So there's a lot of responsibility in taking on a partner. It's not whether they will give me product or how much they will pay me. That all comes after a decision, this is a company that I want to work with. For Dalstrong, it was a really easy decision. I was using the products. I was sharing them with my friends. Other people were buying them without any kind of partnership. So when I had the opportunity to work with Dalstrong, that was kind of a no-brainer.
What’s your best kitchen or grilling hack?
People ask me about grilling hacks and kitchen hacks all the time. The first thing I tell them is I don't use hacks. I use science. I use technique. I learn things to do. I don't have hacks to give away. My favorite techniques probably include things like dry brining meats overnight and getting the salt content exactly right. I think I'm really creative with flavor profiles and layering flavor profiles. So you'll see me often put salt on first and then another layer of spices and then maybe a layer of a glaze or even a third or fourth layer of spices. I think that's a big part of how I get the flavor profiles and the meat experience that I create, but none of it's a hack. You got to do the work. You got to learn the techniques. You’ve got to practice them. You got to do them.
Is there a spice or a dish that you secretly hate?
There's not really a secret about the foods that I hate. I mean I'm pretty outspoken about foods that are targeted at vegans like tofu or anything made out of tofu. I don't think tofu belongs in the kitchen. I don't believe it belongs on a plate. I actually did some fun stuff with a Dalstrong product a couple of weeks ago that I think went over really well and showed people exactly what to do with tofu when you've got it in a carnivore kitchen.
What is the kitchen tool you can’t live without?
I cannot live without my chef's knife. It was the 8" gladiator series chef knife. If I'm in the kitchen and I'm working, I probably have that in my hand or close by. Now that I've upgraded to the 10.25" shogun chef's knife, it's really versatile. I use it during prep. I can even use it as I finish meat. And yes, I do cook vegetables, not just animals that eat vegetables. My chef’s knife is definitely the most versatile tool in the kitchen.
What would your last meal be?
I think if I get the opportunity to plan my last meal, it's going to involve olive-fed Wagyu beef, probably that ribeye that I cooked before. I think the main course would be the olive-fed Wagyu rib eye and then for the vegetable, I would probably have an olive-fed Wagyu ribeye and then for the bread and the dessert, I'd probably go with an olive-fed Wagyu ribeye. I think that would make a complete well-rounded meal with all of the food groups, meat and meat and meat and meat.
What’s next for you?
It's really hard to imagine anything other than this. I mean I've done so many great things in my life and in my career and I am so happy doing what I'm doing. I get to cook. I eat some of the best food. I get to learn. I study from the best. I've got great friends in this barbecue cooking community. I work with great partners. I don't know if there is anything next. I'd like to be able to do this for a really long time.
Catch Al sharing his favorite recipes, tips, and tactics (including some surprising tips for how to use tofu) on his YouTube Channel “Eat More Vegans” on TikTok, and on Instagram. Get merch (and discounts on cool gear) from his website eatmorevegans.com.
Written by Abby PollenAbby spends her free time exploring her home turf of British Columbia’s west coast and snacking on all the wild edibles there from blackberries to maple tree blossoms. She’s a certified word nerd with a French degree, a passion for scrabble, and a repertoire of terrible puns. Some day Abby hopes to have a proper farm, but for now she’s making do with a back yard garden.