Tom Schmidt and Haley Riley

Salt + Smoke
St. Louis, MO

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Tom is basically really cool.  He loves BBQ and restaurants and being cool. He thought he was the best at stuff until he met Haley Riley.

Haley was raised by wolves in the wild only to become the world's preeminent meat doctor.  



WITH Tom Schmidt and Haley Riley

We sat down with Salt + Smoke pitmasters Tom Schmidt and Haley Riley to talk St. Louis BBQ, charcuterie, and what it takes to become a doctor of meat.


Tell us about what you’ll be cooking at Q in the Lou and why you chose that dish and side.
Chasing that brisket game is what we're all about. It is definitely our biggest focus at S+S and we want to share it with anyone who will give us a shot.

If you had to offer one helpful tip to the backyard barbecuers of the world, what would it be?
Keep it simple.  

If you could take an all-expenses-paid BBQ road trip across America, which three pits would you stop at?
Salt Lick, Franklin's, Kerlin's. (We like Texas. We love brisket.)

Describe the Salt+Smoke menu in one word.

Who is or was the biggest influence on your cooking?
Tom: Marcella Hazan.
Haley: My grandma.

Can we officially deem St. Louis a BBQ city? Think we’ll ever become oversaturated with barbecue spots?
Without question. I don't think we have seen the mountain top by any means in terms of amount of places and styles of BBQ in this town. BBQ is distinctly American and accessible to everyone. I think it is just now starting to get recognized as such. The more talented people that come fall in love with BBQ, the more restaurants that open, the bigger the circle gets. How many burger places are in St. Louis? There should be that many BBQ spots.

Tom, your other restaurant is Franco. What do BBQ and a French bistro have in common?
So much. First, at Franco we cure all our own charcuterie (bacon, prosciutto, capicola, ventranche, saucisson, etc. — up to 15 at any given moment). Meat is definitely our strong suit. The other side is discipline and taking the time to always source the best ingredients and treat them as such. Paying attention to all the minute details is what elevates French cuisine and BBQ to the next level.

Tom, why did you decide to re-concept the Nico space as BBQ?
We wanted to take the space in a new direction that was exciting for us and the community we are a part of. BBQ is just such a natural extension of our passion for meat, there was no other option.

How did Haley become what you call “the world’s most preeminent meat doctor”?
It's pretty hard to even get into meat doctor school, let alone be the top of your class. I guess, for Haley, it’s similar to what happened when Mozart sat at a piano or Matthew McConaughey gets in front of a camera. Some people are just made to be great at certain things.

What’s the key to the perfect brisket?
Ugh. There's a lot: marbling, age, breed, trimming, smoking, temp, resting, carving, feel. They are all the most important?