Interview with Chef Mike “The Legend” Mills of 17th Street Bar and Grill – Murphysboro, IL

June 2008

Which woods do you use? “I like to use wood as a flavoring – not as a heat source. For beef, I like using post oak with some wild cherry. I think you can use any type of smoke to stand up to the boldness of the beef. For the rest, I don’t like smoke to be an overbearing element. For poultry, pork and seafood I use fruit woods like apple or cherry or pecan.”

Mike’s Favorite Rub: You can’t talk to Mike Mills without talking about his Magic Dust. It took him over a year to develop.

Philosophy on Sauces: “I personally like a thinner sauce. It’s got to have three dimensions: sweetness, vinegar, and a slight amount of heat. When you’re making a sauce, you’ve got to please the public. You need to realize there’s a difference between what’s right for your palate and what your customer base is going to like. I’ve listened to my customers over the years, and can tell you: the older your clientele, the less heat they can take.”

Preferred Fuel: All natural, hardwood lump charcoal. Use the charcoal for heat and wood for the flavor.

Mike’s Tips for Chefs Without a Smoker: Talking to Mike yielded an excellent solution for chefs that want to make barbecue and smoking a permanent part of their menu. It’s called The Ultra Que. According to Mike: “This pit can do everything that a regular pit can do. It’ll cook wood or charcoal while being gas assisted, but you can do wood by itself or gas by itself. It will fit through any 3 foot door, is 29 inches wide, and can slide perfectly under any restaurant’s standard-size exhaust hood. Capacity-wise, the Ultra Que will accommodate 20 racks of ribs or 16-18 pork butts. It can also double as a holding oven. You’ll also be the only one on your block with it because it’s only been on the market 3 months.”