At Minuteman High School, Superintendent Bouquillon Combines Passions for Education (and BBQ)
LEXINGTON – On weekdays, he serves as the top administrator at an award-winning regional vocational technical high school in Lexington. On weekends, he puts on an apron and hat and becomes an award-winning barbeque chef.
It’s probably safe to say that Dr. Edward A. Bouquillon is unique among the ranks of area school superintendents, sharing passions for both vocational-technical education and BBQ cooking. Several times a year, those passions overlap.
That’s when you can smell smoked beef brisket in the air at Minuteman High School and on the superintendent’s clothes. That’s when Dr. Bouquillon – known simply as “Dr. B” to the students at Minuteman – teaches meat cutting, authentic barbeque preparation, and the use of BBQ sauce, brines, injects, and rubs to students in the Culinary Arts program at Minuteman.
Welcome to what’s known as “Dr. B’s BBQ Institute.”
“I like to share what a BBQ judge would look for,” he says, wearing a BBQ chef’s jacket and trademark hat.
Dr. B. knows what judges look for because he’s cooked at BBQ competitions and he’s been a judge himself. He’s gone to BBQ competitions, big and small, across the country. He’s taken part in local and regional competitions, even national competitions. He’s won trophies, ribbons, and certificates.
He’s a member of the Northeast Barbeque Society (NEBS), Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS), and Memphis Barbeque Network (MBM).
During the first week in April, Bouquillon led a team of Minuteman Culinary Arts students in preparing nearly 300 pounds of beef brisket and 15 racks of ribs for an authentic barbeque buffet to be served in the school’s student-run restaurant.
“I definitely think it’s an awesome experience,” said Taryn O’Connor of Bolton, one of five Culinary Arts students cooking outside with Dr. Bouquillon one rainy Thursday morning. Rounding out the group were fellow juniors Natalia Gorman of Belmont, Christian Ciaramaglia of Everett, and Chris LeBlanc of Watertown along with freshman Allison Sanzio of Stow. Students described Dr. B’s participation as “kinda cool” and “something you’d never see at another school.”
Under Bouquillon’s direction, they added specific amounts of honey, rub, and spices to the ribs and pork butts. During the cook, they sprayed the meat with apple juice.
The ribs will be on the smoker for four hours, the pork butt for eight, Bouquillon estimated.
Prepared the day before, the beef brisket was slow-cooked for 16 hours on Dr. Bouquillon’s personal “smoker”, a black, barrel-shaped, six-foot-long metal “tank” fueled by apple wood and lump charcoal. The smoker operates at surprisingly low heat, 220 degrees for most meats.
”It’s authentic,” he says, “No electricity, no propane. It’s real and it takes time, attention, and skills I want my kids to learn.”
In addition to this special annual event – “probably the seventh or eighth,” he guesses – the Superintendent also oversees “Dr. B.’s BBQ Break” once every semester. The BBQ Break recognizes the class with the highest attendance rate of the quarter and rewards the students with a free BBQ meal cooked by Culinary Arts students under the supervision of Superintendent Bouquillon.
How did he gain this passion (which some might describe as an obsession) for BBQ?
Dr. Bouquillon explains it this way: He earned two degrees, a B.S. in Animal Sciences and a Masters in Animal Industries. When friends had an event, he was always asked to help with the food. He “started roasting pigs in cinder block pits 35 years ago” as a result of that. Early in his career, he taught in an agricultural high school and then became a school administrator. That eventually led to Minuteman where he’s led a vocational-technical school with a reputation for innovation and excellence. About ten years ago, he started entering BBQ competitions, and appreciates the family atmosphere prevalent in the BBQ ‘culture’.
For the past few years, Dr. Bouquillon has been working to build a new Minuteman High School. Dr. B. hopes to break ground on the project by early this summer.
But before that happens, he’ll be off to his first barbeque festival of the season in Ridgefield, Connecticut, May 6-7 and the Memphis in May International Festival May 17-20 for the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest. He’ll be competing as a member of the Bare Bones BBQ Team in Memphis.
Bouquillon has his own team, with its own logo, its own T-shirts, and its own barbeque sauces and base rub. His team is called Big Head Ed BBQ, a self-effacing name that Dr. B. coined to describe his own cranium. Big Head Ed BBQ even has its own website: http://www.bhebbq.com/.
Bouquillon is proud of the growing popularity of barbeque and efforts to create BBQ cooking competitions just for youngsters, known in the field as “Kids Q”. He hopes to have his grandchildren competing with the team this summer.
Professional BBQ is never that far away. The Northeast Barbeque Society runs BBQ grilling classes at the Maynard Rod and Gun Club, a mere 11 miles from Bouquillon’s Minuteman High School.