Meet the Chef: Mighty Quinn’s Hugh Mangum
What’s the story behind Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque?
My step brother Micha has two kids, a boy and a girl. Christos, his brother in law, has three daughters, and I have three sons. Between the three of us, we’re like the Brady Bunch, plus two. It’s the perfect partnership between the three of us. I oversee food and serve as the moral compass for the brand. Micha is from a Wall Street hedgefund background, he’s a financial guru. I call him The Matrix because he can sit under a screen of numbers and make sense of everything. Christos is a second generation restauranteur, and has a background in catering. He was one of the partners at The Venetain in New Jersey, which is the state’s largest catering hall. He has a ton of experience in the front and the back of the house—he gets the business sense, he gets the food sense. So he’s the perfect person to work between Mischa and I.
So there’s three brothers, Christos, Mischa, and myself. We got started at a flea market with a smoker. The three of us decided to open up our first brick and mortar about a year later in the East Village in December of 2012, so we just had our 4 year anniversary. About three months into us being open we were reviewed in the New York Times, and the levy broke. We got an insanely great review and we ended up on the “Best of List” for The Times, Zagats, and so on. So that really reaffirmed that we wanted to and could open more restaurants. We’re now at 9 worldwide. We just opened our first location in the Phillipines and we opened our second location in Tai Pei.
How did you get started cooking?
Second career. I started off in music and was a touring musicican in a rock band. I’m still a drummer, I just don’t do it professionally anymore. When my father passed away 18 years ago, he had left me a little bit of money and I had decided to honor my relationship with him, which was very close and centered around food and baseball and bicycles. But food was the best way for me to still communicate with him, so to speak. I went to culinary school, fell in love with food and it became my passion.
What are some of the signature items on the menu?
Bisket built the house. It had a moment three years ago. I was serving it at that market 5 years ago, so when it had its moment, we were already doing it and we were doing it better than anybody else.
I stand by everything on the menu, but if I had to single out a few items: the wings are my favorite thing—and are rated as being the top ten in the country, the pulled pork, which the Times said is the only pulled pork in the city, and the sweet potato casserole is a family recipe, it’s like Thanksgiving in a cup.
What’s your favorite thing about New York?
I moved to New York from L.A because of food, and if there’s one thing I’ll always love about New York it will be the diversity of the food and the people. There’s something about New Yorkers: this sense of pride. When we opened our first location in the East Village, there had been 6 or 7 failed restaurants in there within 10 years—which is like the kiss of death. So we bumped the trend, brought in a priest, a rabbi, and a feng shui lady to bless the place, and everyone in the East Village embraced what we were doing and Mighty Quinn’s became a neighborhood place. We were doing something very genuine and the neighborhood got that—people will call bull in New York—New Yorkers have that kind of brutal honesty, you know, but they got that what we were doing was real.
Number one barbeque tip?
Everyone skips ahead—people will say the rub, the sauce, or how long you cook the meat. But where it all starts is with the fire. You can take the best or worst cut of meat and make it taste really good if you know how to manage your fire. We call it a sexy fire: it’s not blaring or blazing, but it’s not dead. There’s a bed of embers, a glow, a log or two giving some smoke. You need to get familiar with the fire first—it’s like looking before you leap.
Join Mighty Quinn’s and over 25 of NYC’s top restaurants at The Art of Food at Sotheby’s February 4th. Tickets: www.artoffoodny.com
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