For Pat Riggins, life before the pandemic was regimented. As the banquet chef at Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier for the past three years, he played an enormous part in the lavish spreads and stately dinners for the high-class events and weddings that often booked one of the hotel’s many banquet halls. Prior to this role, Riggins was the hotel’s restaurant chef for five years. Wilfrid’s Restaurant, Zoe’s Lounge, and the in-room dining program were all under his watchful eye.
But that was before the pandemic. Before there were no banquets and weddings to plan.
At home with his wife Liz and their four daughters, Riggins needed an outlet for his desire to feed people. “Sure, it was nice having some time to spend with the kids and Liz,” recalled Riggins, “but if I’m not working, I get bored fairly easily.”
Many of Riggins’ neighbours are older, either unable or unwilling to risk the drive and exposure to the supermarkets. “We put a little ad up on Facebook to see if anybody was interested in homemade BBQ,” said Riggins. “We really just wanted to help out the part of the community that couldn’t go shopping or meal plan by offering them good, homemade products.”
Riggins was able to secure some ghost kitchen space at St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall, and since early April, he and his small, mostly-family team have been cranking out classic BBQ items and meal kits with much aplomb. Thanks to Riggins’ experience with both restaurant à la carte cooking and the high-volume cooking of banquet service, he’s able to offer an ever-expanding menu of choices, each item boasting exceptional attention to detail.
“You know, we haven’t even had our grand opening yet,” said Riggins, “but we’ve been busy. With the space we have and the equipment I’ve been able to get, I just want to keep doing more and more.”
Riggins Family BBQ began with what Pat calls their “main line” of products; slow-cooked beef brisket, baby back ribs with Pat’s Original Rub, side ribs with the Memphis-style “Our Roots” rub, pulled pork, jerk chicken, and smoked whole roasted chickens. All of the rubs and sauces are produced in-house, by the team, using recipes Riggins has accumulated over his years of cooking.
“These are my babies,” Riggins said, his pride evident. “The “Our Roots” seasonings come by way of my family and their time in Tennessee, being exposed to that style of BBQ, then teaching it to me.” Ottawa-born and raised, Pat’s ancestors come from the American South: His great-grandfather and family immigrated to Alberta from Missouri during the Civil War, as they were North-supporting. The family moved around due to military service, eventually settling in the Ottawa area.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Riggins is already adding new items weekly to his family-style menu. Mennonite farmer’s sausage, a hybrid Spanish/Portuguese-style chorizo, cured meats like lonza, and even whole pigs are things to look forward to.
In addition, Riggins is working on packaging and selling his rubs, sauces, and marinades to take home, so people can always have Pat’s signature flavours at their fingertips.
“We’ll start with the Pat’s Original, Our Roots and Into the Wild rubs,” said Riggins. “Into the Wild being a rub designed for gamier meats. After that, we’d like to start offering some hot sauces, as well as the other sauces and condiments we produce.”
Sourcing is also underway for a curing chamber and larger cold smoke unit. Riggins loves to give people what they want and tries to be as accommodating as possible. “We made the choice to use halal beef and chicken for our products whenever possible,” said Riggins. “While it’s true that we also use pork, we do our best to keep everything separate. I want as many people as possible to feel like there’s something we produce that’s just for them.”
Riggins simply has a passion for feeding people ethical, humble food they can feel good about. “We’re sourcing the best ingredients we can afford. We’re using whole animals. I’m making food I want to eat and sharing it with people,” he said. “What could be better than that?”