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Top Chef: Adam Ramirez

Twice a month, we shine a spotlight on our favourite chefs in the city. This time round it's Adam Ramirez of Kreuzberg BBQ joint The Pit.

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Photo by Karolina Spolniewski

Adam Ramirez came to Berlin in 2010 as an IT worker, but it wasn’t long before he started experimenting with the slow-smoked barbecue that his home state of Texas is known for. His restaurant The Pit started as a catering company in 2014 and opened their brick and mortar location in Kreuzberg just last June. Ramirez won’t call himself a “chef”, but his commitment to authenticity and quality product make us give him the title anyway. This man wakes up at 5am most days to make the hour and a half round trip to Marzahn to chauffeur meat from his smoker (lovingly named “Dallas”) all the way to Reichenberger Straße.

What type of food do you cook?

We don’t cook, we smoke! It’s authentic Texas-style BBQ – which means we smoke the meat using real firewood. It’s a simple process, it just takes a long time. We prep the meat with salt and pepper and then let it sit in the smoker for 16-18 hours and when it comes out, it’s ready! It’s kind of magical to open the door of the smoker after so many hours and there’s just this beautiful piece of meat – and we didn’t really do anything except make sure the fire was running steady. Besides our smoked meat, we just have three sides: coleslaw, baked beans and cornbread, like what you would find in any BBQ joint in Texas.

What’s your best-selling item?

Our best-selling item is our beef brisket. In Texas, they call brisket the “king of BBQ” because it’s the most challenging to cook… or should I say smoke! We also do pork belly – which is not a typical BBQ cut, but we wanted to do something a little bit different – and beef ribs, only on Wednesdays.

What food trend do you hate the most?

Well my mom said if I don’t have anything good to say I shouldn’t say it at all, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut! But if I had to choose one thing that annoys me, it would be people claiming their food is something that it’s not. For example: BBQ restaurants that claim their meat is hand-smoked when it was obviously done by a machine.

A cooking tip?

Patience! We make a lot of meat, not just for our restaurant but for events as well. People see the meat cooking for a long time, and they get excited and want to cut into it right away. When you dive in like that it forces out all the juices, so the most important thing is to let it sit for a little bit or you’ll lose all the moisture and flavour. That applies to smoking meat as well – after we cook the meat for 18 hours, we let it sit for six hours before we even touch it!

A dining tip (other than your own restaurant)?

There’s a Vietnamese place close to my apartment called Chez Dang. It’s a pretty standard restaurant, well designed, efficient but the thing that really stands out is their Number 20. If you love spicy food, its really really good! I think they refer to it as a salad but the meat outweighs the vegetables for sure. It’s a mixture of thinly sliced, marinated beef with fresh red onion, cilantro and some other vegetables. It packs a punch because they use fresh chilli. I would highly recommend it, the flavours are wonderful.

What’s the best thing about owning a restaurant in Berlin?

The best thing about owning a restaurant is the people that come in the door. It isn’t about the money or the moments of frustration; it’s the community of customers, staff and other restaurant owners. Even the food is secondary to the people. Food is just the thing that brings the people together.

And the worst thing?

As a foreigner, having to do everything in German is still a struggle. It can also be tricky to find your place among the different attitudes of all the neighborhoods in Berlin. Kreuzberg is wonderful, and we are accepted for the most part. We have people that have lived here their whole lives – they’re true locals! We offer a pricier product, but we still want everyone to feel welcome and like we are serving our neighbourhood.