For the love of cooking
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
As Public Works Director for the City of Liberty Hill, Wayne Bonnet can be found anywhere in town at any hour of the day, but if you ask him where he’d always prefer to be, he’s not shy about telling you.
“One of these days,” he said, laughing, when asked if he’d be barbecuing most of the time if he had a choice.
Bonnet has been standing over a pit for years, honing his craft, but never forgetting where it began or why he does it.
“When I was in high school I built my first large barbecue pit as a high school project,” he said. “I would go cook and people would try the barbecue and tell me it was good, so I just kept on.
“My love for barbecuing started a long time ago and my dad was a big part of that. We were always doing something,” he said.
The first time he rolled out his home-built pit, he won the trophy for best pit, and he was hooked on the fun.
“Those are memories we will never lose because we had such a good time,” he said. “It was the first year I had my new barbecue pit I had out. It was a wonderful experience.”
His hobby turned into a competitive one after a while, participating in many cook-offs, winning some awards along the way, but always having fun in the process, win or not.
“I started out in it in the past and had a lot of fun, but life takes over and things happen and that got put on the back burner,” Bonnet said. “So as of right now I’m not so much into competitions but I hope to be again soon, so we’ll see.”
There may not be trophies on his mind right now, but what has always made Bonnet happy about cooking is what keeps him at it even if it is only in the backyard.
“I love to hear people’s reactions, good or bad, that let you know you’re headed the right direction or you may need to work on it a little more,” he said.
At least once a week, and often more than that, Bonnet is cooking brisket, ribs, chicken, turkey, prime rib or beef ribs, either for family or for friends.
Some are more difficult than others and require different levels of attention.
“It is all a challenge,” Bonnet said. “You’re always working to do your best and it’s always fun. Prime rib is the biggest challenge, it takes a lot of attention.”
That attention for Bonnet is love, a place he escapes to.
“It’s a love affair pretty much,” he said. “You sit out there and you barbecue, and for me, it’s that time that I don’t have to think of anything else but cooking, so it takes me away from the day-to-day job of everything else.”
Bonnet says a lot of barbecuing success comes with trial and error, but it has to start with a desire to put in the time and energy.
“Be sure it is something you really want to do,” he said. “Your end result is all a product of you, so it has to be something you really want to commit to.”
With the passion comes the science, working out a detailed plan, noting successes and failures and repeating what works.
“Preparation is everything,” Bonnet said. “If you have a good preparation process and stick to it then consistency is always going to happen in your cooking.”
Seasoning is a big key, but Bonnet said there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
“There is such thing as too much seasoning,” he said, laughing. “You can go overboard, I do know that. But for the most part it is all about fun. That’s what it’s about is learning from those experiences and learning as you go. There are different things you can apply to the meat you are about to cook as far as prepping it, that can change it one direction or the other. Either it’s going to be phenomenal or it’s going to be just okay. Prep is a huge thing.”
The pit may get a lot of attention, but Bonnet says his year-round grilling habit spans many types of outdoor cooking.
“I have all manner of different types of grills,” he said. “I have a rather large gas grill for doing a wide variety of events with a large amount of food. I’ve cooked 200 hamburgers before on it. I’m not ‘It’s only hardwood’,” he said. “I use gas, charcoal and hardwood and they all have their positives and their negatives.”