July 15, 2012


Recently I told you about my new Ugly Drum Smoker. Since I wrote about this remarkable device, I have had the pleasure of helping my oldest son, James, build his own UDS. He came to visit over the Fourth of July and we split our time between building his smoker, and cooking in mine. Over three days, we smoked a brisket, a salmon filet, and baby back ribs. I can unequivocally state that everything we put in the smoker that week came out all-time-best in my experience. The brisket was fork tender, perfectly flavored, and moist. The salmon was perfectly glazed, delicately smoked, flaky and moist. The ribs had us all looking at each other wondering if what we were experiencing was even possible.

The smoker got a huge amount of credit for all this, and deserved it. We ran the thing all day long on a single load of briquets and smoke wood, with perfect temperature control at minimal effort. But there was another secret that made it all work out so exquisitely well. That secret was amazingribs.com. Craig Goldwyn, aka: "Meathead," is the mastermind behind this remarkable compendium of information about cooking with fire. His website is a charming blend of humor and solid information on every aspect of smoking, barbecuing and grilling meat. This is not just a collection of recipes. There are recipes, of course, but also the science and rationale behind them. He provides technical information about equipment, about seasonings, meats, and how they all work together.

I am not talking about Meathead and his website to get you to go out and set up your own smoker. If you are inclined to do so, you can't go wrong following his advice. But there is something going on here that goes beyond all that. Craig Goldwyn has created something at amazingribs.com that is pure entrepreneurial genius. He has taken what he knows best, and is most passionate about, and leveraged it into a full time income for himself. According to his web site, he has recently quit his day job.

There are several elements that make this work, according to Munro Richardson of the Kauffman Foundation. In a recent webinar, he talked about the four basic staples and seven spices that every entrepreneur can count on in his or her metaphorical kitchen. Goldwyn uses these generously.

The Four Staples

Richardson concentrates on elements that all of us have at our disposal. The first of these is who you are. Your personality, aptitudes, and experience bring you a perspective and potential that is unique to you. This is readily apparent as you read the pages of Craig Goldwyn's web site. His sense of humor, his personality, and his life experience bring an endearing and disarming charm that is wonderful.

The second staple in the entrepreneur's pantry is who you know. This includes those whom you rely on, those who inspire you, and those who support you. It is absolutely crucial that you find a healthy set of such people to engage in your enterprise. Some will be friends. Some might be partners, both in life and business. Some might be competitors. Some might be employees or consultants. There is a whole different article we could write about the importance and challenge of getting the right circle of such people supporting what you do. One excellent example from amazingribs.com is that Craig has hired a scientist to get to the bottom of the mysteries of why things happen in cooking. This has brought a remarkable authority to his opinions and recommendations for why things work better when done one way rather than another.

The third staple in the pantry is what you know. Craig has a whole page on his website describing his credentials on the patio. I only scratch the surface here. He has judged barbecue from Kansas City to Memphis, and wine from California to Italy. He was a judge at the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue and at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. In addition, he served as Chief Judge of the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Chief Judge of the College Football Hall of Fame Kickoff Riboff. He learned to write as a journalism major at the University of Florida and has written hundreds of articles about food and drink for consumers as a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune, and scores more for Restaurant Hospitality, a trade magazine. He lectured for more than a decade on wine at Cornell University's Hotel School in Ithaca, NY, and taught at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago for three years.

The fourth staple in the entrepreneurial cupboard is where you are. Craig's physical location is perhaps significant, in that the kind of cooking he does is most prevalent in the midwest and the south, and he draws on his experience and background there. But for practical purposes, he has gone global with the website. Because he has pulled all the other elements together so effectively, and leveraged his global platform, place is not as big a factor as it would be for some other ventures. But for most of us, where we are matters. It is important to weigh the impact that your environment has on your enterprise. You might be in a place where there is boundless opportunity. That might also mean that there is stiff competition. You might be in a quieter place, where competition is almost absent. You might be in a place that is uniquely suited to what you are doing. The factors of place are almost limitless, and each of us, to some degree, is confronted with the nuance of our place.

The Seven Spices

Munro Richardson's seven spices include motivation, optimism, curiosity, empathy, confidence, decisiveness, and flexibility. While the four staples are things that all of us have and can count on, the seven spices are more variable. They require cultivation and nurture, and we have them in varying degrees. All of them are essential to anyone who seeks a creative life, but none of them will always be fully present all the time in a consistent manner for all of us, like the four staples are. Our appetites and palates for these spices are as unique in our creative lives as are our appetites for culinary spices in the real kitchen. Finding your way with these ingredients is essential to developing your own entrepreneurial style. But be sure that you cultivate them all. Again, there is a full article begging to be written about the importance of these traits of the innovator. Meathead most definitely exhibits most of them in abundance, as you will see if you spend much time on his website.


Munro Richardson proposed in his webinar that the entrepreneur is not a person who relies heavily on recipes or formulas. He suggests that a recipe should be a platform from which to experiment and explore. Meathead's motto on amazingribs.com is "No rules in the bedroom or the kitchen." His website is peppered with excellent recipes, procedures, and techniques, but he focuses more on the theory behind them. This is an essential trait of the creative life.

Meathead and his barbecue was a bit of a twist for today's piece. It was not about art. That was not an accident. We are artists, and most of our readers are too. We tend to think in terms of creative lifestyles being about some aspect of the arts. Of course, one could argue that smoked meats are a culinary art, and I would agree, following my experience over the Fourth of July. But I'm not going there. We focused on Craig Goldwyn and his website because he has found his own creative path and made it work very well. He's out there making it work, and he has cut loose the 9-5 safety net. That is what Outside the Lines is all about!


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