Stupid Hot is one of his 31 sauces
Food trucks during the summer are all over downtown Minneapolis. But don’t look there for Chef Earl. He could be found anywhere across the Twin Cities.
“I’ve been cooking for 40 years,” said Earl, a food vendor. He and his wife Felicia set up shop weekly at St. Paul’s Farmers Market, as well as other area farmers markets, including Thursday afternoons in Maple Grove. His food, especially his barbecue sauces, has been featured in local newspapers and food blogs.
The MSR talked to the married couple as well as a few of his customers outside the St. Paul baseball park in the city’s Lowertown neighborhood on the Fourth of July. “Good day,” Chef Earl said on being located across the street from the stadium’s main gates.
He had expected a good number of walk-up customers due to the ball game as well as the scheduled post-game fireworks afterwards. “We only do two [St. Paul Saints] games a week… It’s according to how my schedule is.
“We are heavily busy. We have 31 sauces — only-in-America homemade sauces. We do everything fresh.” When asked, Earl proudly pointed to his specialty, “Our brisket, potato salad [and] coleslaw. It sells out so fast.”
He estimates that three percent of his regular business is Black folk. “I’d like to see 25 or 30 percent. I’d like to see more Black folk support me.”
“The food is great,” offered Calvin Reginald Cooper of St. Paul, a satisfied customer. “The sauces are to die for. I had a cheddar wurst with hickory BBQ sauce, coleslaw, potato salad and root beer.”
“I met them about a month or two ago hanging out in Mears Park,” said Cooper. “The food is awesome.”
Husband and wife Joe Lipari and Lynne Howard of West St. Paul pointed out their table at the St. Paul’s Farmers Market, which is across the street from the ballpark. They came solely for Earl’s food. “We’re not here for the Saints game but to have his brisket,” declared Lipari.
“Absolutely nothing better,” marveled Howard.
“We met Chef Earl over in West St. Paul,” said Lipari. “Everybody was avoiding him — I don’t know why. But we came over and started tasting it, and just fell in love with the sauces. Chef Earl has some of the best sauces in town. I really appreciate what he does.”
Lipari says Earl’s Stupid Hot Sauce “is one of my favorites.”
His wife’s favorite is “Hot Chocolate.”
“Stupid Hot is real, real big,” noted Earl, but added that his hickory sauce, which he allowed the MSR to sample of along with his brisket, is his personal favorite. And “Paradise Love” ranks second. “That sauce is fresh and it is really good. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 12.”
Why not do his thing in a brick-and-mortar location? “I can’t do restaurants,” admitted Earl. “I did that already. We set our own schedule and do what we do. That’s better for me at my age. I’m real busy.”
Chef Earl said that he expects to be at each Andover High School home football game this fall: “That’s going to be nice,” he said. “We’ve got a concessions truck.”
“We are looking for sponsors and investors” for his food business, said Chef Earl. “I would like to see more Black folk. We got to come out and support each other.
“There is only one Chef Earl,” he said, inviting everyone to visit his website for more information. “This is the real Chef Earl.”
Learn more about Chef Earl at www.chefearlsbbq.com.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.