At the Grill with Susie Bulloch
Susie Bulloch, the mastermind behind the website Hey Grill Hey, started her business with one goal in mind: to help people become a “backyard barbecue hero.” With more than 500 recipes on her website and a product line of sauces and rubs, Hey Grill Hey has become a favorite resource among barbecuers at every level for all things smoking and grilling.
Susie and her husband, Todd, who serves as the Chief Taste Tester and Financial Officer for Hey Grill Hey, currently reside in St. George with their three kids. We were able to visit with Susie to learn more about her passion for barbecue and helping others find their inner grill master.
Q: Tell me about Hey Grill Hey. How did you get started and why?
A: I've always loved cooking. I grew up in a big, restaurant-type family as the youngest of six kids, and food was always pretty central to our family gatherings and celebrations. When I got married and had my own kids, I wanted that to be a part of our family life, and to have our family culture be about family meals, getting people together, and sitting around the table. I loved cooking, I loved eating, and that is kind of where the food obsession started.
Barbecue found me by luck. I had a neighbor who had a friend that was working for a company that manufactured barbecue smokers and was looking to start a blog. I had some experience before that blogging professionally, so I jumped on board and it just grew from there. At some point, I wasn't contributing recipes anymore to this other blog, but I wanted barbecue to still be a part of our lives. I loved recipe development specifically, but barbecue was kind of this magical place where all the stuff that I loved about the big family and everybody gathered around the table carried over, because it’s kind of like a celebration cuisine. It's very approachable. It's very family-friendly, and it's about those gatherings and those memorable meals. So, I started Googling things like, “How do you food blog as a business?” because I had worked for other people blogging before and knew it was possible. So that was really the time that I kind of took the leap and started my website.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about your work?
A: I think my favorite thing about my work is a combination of things. It’s always been family first for me and that's why I got into the business that I'm in now. I have the freedom and flexibility to still work from home. I can continue to put my family first and focus on why I started the blog in the first place, which was feeding my family food that we love to eat. My husband and I run this together and so it definitely feels like a modern version of the American Dream.
Q: What is your least favorite thing about your work?
A: That’s a hard question! I think the hardest thing is the social media that comes along with it. It’s great to create content, but it’s an ever-moving target in terms of what's working. I also think there's this perception with food blogging where people think, ‘Oh, you just snap a photo of your dinner and post it online? Oh, your business is on social media? That’s cute.’ There’s just the idea that it is so easy, but it’s not.
Q: What inspires you to come up with new recipes and products?
A: So many things. I get inspired just walking through the grocery store and seeing an ingredient that I haven't cooked with in a while, or that my kids love, or that I want to try something new with. We also let ourselves be directed by what our audience is asking for. We have a membership platform, like an online barbecue school, that people get to join and there's a community surrounding it. We love to have people in our community offer up suggestions or ask questions.
Q: What is your favorite product you currently offer on your site?
A: We have a line of five rubs and five sauces and I find myself working through them in phases. I'll try one and get like obsessed again! Then I'll use something else and get obsessed with that one for a while. We’ve been using our Fiesta Rub most recently. It’s kind of taco-inspired, but it's great in chili or fajitas. We usually just sprinkle it on some thin-sliced steak and grill it up for steak tacos, and our kids would eat those every single week. My favorite sauce right now is probably our Texas Style BBQ Sauce. It's our most recent sauce that we rolled out. It’s not as sweet as a traditional barbecue sauce it’s a little bit tangy. It’s really kind of bright and sweet and makes an awesome complement to smoked meats.
Q: Are you seeing any food trends or more requests for certain kinds of recipes?
A: There are two camps online right now. We have a lot of people that are interested in eating less meat, so they want more vegetable recipes. Those recipes have been fun and have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Then there are also people that want to cook the big cuts of meat. I think people are getting more confident cooking larger cuts of meat because the information is more available now. Before it was like, ‘we don't dare smoke a whole prime rib for Christmas because it's expensive and scary’. So it’s either big traditional barbecue meats or more vegetables. It’s really fun because it provides a lot of variety for me in what I'm able to recipe test, create, and work on.
Q: What is the most memorable thing you have experienced in this career?
A: Oh my gosh, I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do many great things! I’ve had my name on two different grilling world records. I had my own show on Food Network. I was a finalist in a barbecue competition show on Food Network called Barbecue Brawl. I taught Shaquille O’Neal how to spatchcock and cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. I still think the coolest thing ever was the day my husband quit his job to work with me full-time and this really became our family business. Everything else has been remarkable and exciting to talk about, but the actual foundational change it created in our home is the best.
Q: What part of cooking is your favorite?
A: Eating! I like the cooking process itself but when you get to sit down and share the meal with your family, that's what makes it all worth it. Cooking – especially more complicated recipes – can be challenging, time-consuming, and it can be messy. But when you sit down and eat as a family and everyone is happy, it's just the best experience ever.
Q: What is your favorite thing that you make?
A: That’s a hard one, it’s like picking your favorite child! This year, we bought a lamb from a junior FFA student that lives up the street from us. I didn't grow up eating a ton of lamb, and we just always thought we didn't like it very much. So cooking and developing recipes around local lamb has been fun because it’s something I wasn’t very familiar with. I have a curried lamb burger recipe on my site that I came up with and it's one of my favorite things.
What is the most challenging thing you make?
A: I think brisket is always up there on the list of the most challenging foods not just for me, but for most people that are getting into barbecue because it is a long cooking process. I've cooked a lot of briskets – so many briskets – and every time I still get a little bit nervous that it’s not going to turn out. And it always turns out fine. Brisket is just one of those things that’s nerve-wracking for me.
Q: Do you have any tips for others who are wanting to become better or more adventurous cooks?
A: The best thing you can do is spend a few minutes researching what you want to cook. There are so many recipes online now. It used to be that your ability to find new recipes was limited to what cookbooks you owned, but that’s no longer the case. There are amazing, incredible food blogs out there. Most of the results that you'll find, especially if you're Googling recipes, are from professional chefs and professional food bloggers that test and test and test to make sure the results are good. If you're a super beginner, read two or three versions of the type of recipe you want to make and then jump in. If you're trying a complicated recipe, don't skip all the stuff before the recipe card. We will fill that post with tips so that you are successful the very first time. Don’t be scared, plan your time, and have a lot of fun.
Q: Are there any specific tools you would recommend to people who are just starting to grill or smoke?
A: A meat thermometer is the first thing that I recommend to everybody. If you have a meat thermometer, you don't ever have to guess if your steak is done. You don't have to cut into your chicken in the middle of the cooking process to see if the juices are running clear. You just insert a remote probe thermometer and it instantly reads. You don't have to worry about food poisoning. You don't have to worry about tenderness. You don't have to worry about doneness. Everybody can get their steak cooked exactly the way they like it.
Q: What message do you try to share with your readers/audience?
A: My whole goal is to help whoever is reading the website or watching the videos make better barbecue so they can feed the people they love and become a backyard barbecue hero. I think the most impactful experience that you can have is feeding people that you care about. There is so much to be said about that interaction. It's nurturing, it's loving, it's service-based, and the people that you're serving can feel of your love for them. You get to have that moment we call the backyard barbecue hero moment, when you nail it and everybody is excited. That's such a fulfilling experience. My goal is to help people have that experience more often.
Q: How important is it for you to know where your ingredients come from and why?
A: Specifically, thinking as a mom feeding my own kids, yes, I want to know what I'm putting into my body, but I also want to know what I'm putting into theirs and I want them to feel like they have a connection to the food they're eating. Our sauces and seasonings are kind of fun because I get to develop them all at home. They’re all my own recipes and I get to put things in there that we like and want to eat. None of our sauces have liquid smoke in them, which is the signature for a lot of store-bought barbecue sauces, because it takes regular proteins and makes them taste like barbecue. But if you are smoking things at home, you don’t want to add liquid smoke on top of your real smoke. A lot of store-bought seasonings that you buy are very salt-heavy because it’s the cheapest thing you can put in the bottle. We’re really picky and all of the salt we use come from Redmond Sea Salt, which is local to Utah. We get to be selective on what we include and even though there is still salt in our seasonings, it’s a higher quality salt with a better flavor profile.
Q: What is one thing you wish you knew more about when it comes to agriculture and those who grow our food?
I am interested in knowing more about how we can better utilize produce that’s not necessarily “fit.” I would love to see a future where more of this produce is available to consumers. I know there are options right now with companies like Misfit Produce, where you can order and have it shipped to you, but that doesn’t seem to be reducing the carbon footprint in any way. I would love to see more local options for buying from our local Utah producers because I know we produce so much food here.
Q: How connected are you to farmers and ranchers/those who grow our food?
A: We really recommend getting to know your butcher, and if you can take it a step further, get to know your rancher. I think that's important because knowing your entire food chain is crucial. A lot of people grew up very separated from meat production. I mean you walk into the grocery store, it's bright lights, it's cellophane packaging, you take it home, you cook it, and you eat it. My dad grew up going out to a farm in Tooele every summer and helping on the farm, so I grew up with this idea of knowing where our food came from as a matter of importance. We've purchased beef from a farmer named Susie, and she and I talk about where we get our beef. We like to support Junior FFA a lot because I want to support the future of agriculture here in Utah. Buying from kids that are participating in the industry is really valuable.
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