Chef sold gas station barbecue before opening unique outdoor restaurant

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Chef Alfred Mann has held various titles in the restaurant industry, from executive chef in an Italian restaurant to personal chef for professional basketball players.

But the cuisine that has captured Mann’s heart since childhood is barbecue.

“I grew up in Kissimmee, Florida, eating barbecue for a gentleman named Gene Daniels,” Mann told TODAY Food. “His barbecue style was North Carolina. He was making vinegar based sauces and I remember there was a train going by where he was barbecuing and the train was stopping and the guys were getting off the train. to get his food, even though they had a schedule – it was my first experience with a really good barbecue. “

Mann says his love of barbecue started when he was a young child eating at a barbecue restaurant near his home in Kissimmee, Florida. (Terri Peters)

Mann carried the lessons learned from his childhood mentor into his cooking career, eventually founding a restaurant business in 2012 and cooking a barbecue at a small gas station and grocery store near Orlando, Florida.

Mann’s barbecue was popular, and between restaurant orders and daily customers, his business outnumbered the small building. The barbecue business temporarily closed while Mann developed a way forward.

“Phone calls kept coming in, like 10 to 15 people a week asking where we were, if we had moved and when we were going to reopen,” Mann recalls.

Today, Chef Mann serves his own barbecue at Munchie's Live BBQ, an outdoor barbecue restaurant near Orlando, Florida.  (Terri Peters)

Today, Chef Mann serves his own barbecue at Munchie’s Live BBQ, an outdoor barbecue restaurant near Orlando, Florida. (Terri Peters)

Then Mann remembered a small campground and retreat center down the road from the gas station where his barbecue business started. Camp Ithiel, a 20-acre lot set on a scenic lake, seemed like the perfect location for the next phase of Mann’s vision.

The idea for Munchie’s Live BBQ, an outdoor barbecue dining venue and in-car take-out service, was born.

“I thought to myself I’m from Florida, I love the outdoors: fishing, hunting, boating, and the beach,” said Mann, who turned a piece of land on Camp Ithiel into a beautiful outdoor dining room, with smokers and picnic. the tables.

The outdoor area, located at Camp Ithiel, offers a picnic area and outdoor activities by the lake.  (Terri Peters)

The outdoor area, located at Camp Ithiel, offers a picnic area and outdoor activities by the lake. (Terri Peters)

Guests who book the full VIP experience at Munchie’s Live BBQ, which opened in January 2021, spend an hour enjoying the grounds of Camp Ithiel, relaxing in hammocks, playing mini-golf or fishing until Chef Mann rings the dinner bell. Then it’s time to sit down at picnic tables and enjoy Mann’s cooking for an hour-long dining experience.

In addition to classic barbecue dishes like ribs and chicken, Mann offers customers options like suckling pig, whole salmon, and smoked lamb. In a kitchen on the property, side dishes like collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans are prepared and served with cold glasses of lemonade and sweet tea.

During a recent preview of Munchie's Live BBQ, I had the opportunity to sample the sides and meats on Mann's menu.  It is really good.  (Terri Peters)

During a recent preview of Munchie’s Live BBQ, I had the opportunity to sample sides and meats from Mann’s menu. It’s really good. (Terri Peters)

Mann’s secret to delicious barbecue?

“Our style is slow, low and patient,” he said. “We marinate everything and our wood ages. And we make our own charcoal. We start by burning wood on the ground. taste the lighter fluid or gas, you will taste the meat, spices and seasoning. “

For Mann, the unique dining experience is sharing something he loves with his guests.

“In my culture, a barbecue is just a time when everyone gets together and cooks,” Mann explained. “Barbecue means kids, family, fun, parties and food. When I say barbecue, that’s what I’m thinking about. It’s something that activates the fun, when you say barbecue.”

Patrons of Munchie's Live BBQ can relax lakeside on hammocks until Chef Mann rings the dinner bell.  (Terri Peters)

Patrons of Munchie’s Live BBQ can relax lakeside on hammocks until Chef Mann rings the dinner bell. (Terri Peters)

Mann said he hopes families relax by the lake with him on their trips to Orlando, a popular tourist destination due to the abundance of theme parks.

“We want to be that Orlando destination,” he said. “You go online to plan your trip to Orlando and you do Walt Disney World one day, Munchies the next, then SeaWorld. You take a break here and relax.”

Mann, who has worked in the restaurant business since the age of 13, has two children of his own and said his own relationship “fell apart” due to the demanding hours he worked to build his career.

It is this firsthand knowledge of the toll that long hours can have on family life that inspires her to ignite her smokers.

Mann hopes his restaurant becomes a tourist destination for barbecue enthusiasts and those looking for a relaxing outdoor experience while on vacation in Orlando.  (Terri Peters)

Mann hopes his restaurant becomes a tourist destination for barbecue enthusiasts and those looking for a relaxing outdoor experience while on vacation in Orlando. (Terri Peters)

“I want to give other chefs and really everyone who works hard a place to come and spend time with their family,” he said. “Instead of going to a restaurant behind four walls, you can go somewhere outside where you can eat and have a family experience by the lake. You can take off your shoes, get your feet dirty, get anchored. a moment and then go back to your busy life. “


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