Chris Cavender, our Dayton.com Daytonian of the Week, has a restaurant resume that sounds more like a “Who’s Who” directory of local eateries. Among his stints: Cavender served as the former executive chef at Jay's Restaurant in Dayton and Sycamore Country Club in Miamisburg and the co-founder of 1572 Roadhouse Bar-B-Q restaurant near Waynesville.
But it’s his role as a barbecue entrepreneur as founder of UrbanQ Smokehouse specialty food products that has been showering Cavender with accolades most recently. Just this week, his UrbanQ Smokehouse Bayou Classic Creole Q Sauce was named the No. 1 “Cooking Sauce” in the 2019 Fiery Food Challenge ZestFest. And his Smokehouse Blues sauce earned third place in Fruit-Based Barbecue Sauce category in the same competition.
We caught up with Cavender between batches of sauce to find out a bit more about this local chef and business owner.
Give us a summary of your experience and let us know what you are doing now.
I’ve worked at a lot of restaurants in the Dayton area — Jed’s Steak and Ribs, L’Auberge, the Daytonian Hotel, Peasant Stock, Jay’s Seafood, various country clubs — and owned TW’s in Miamisburg and Cuvee Wine Bar and Cellar in Bellbrook. I have been at the Ohio Renaissance Park for the last 20-plus years and am now there full time (yes, I’m the turkey leg guy), mostly with 1572 Roadhouse Bar-B-Q.
My grandmothers and a large German-based family got me interested in cooking. My two mentors, Deiter Krug and Dominic Christini at the now-defunct L’Auberge, trained me and gave me the extra push to go to culinary school. I learned more from them than I did at school.
I had made sauces and seasoning for 40 years in the restaurants where I worked. When my sauces and rubs started winning national competitions in 2016, I decided to launch my own label, UrbanQ Smokehouse. It started as e-commerce only, but we are now in several Dayton-area retailers. The restaurant came about when the owners of the Ohio Renaissance Park asked what I would do if I had a chance to add a restaurant in the off-season. I said BBQ, and that’s where 1572 Roadhouse Bar-B-Q, a seasonal restaurant, started.
What’s a typical work day for you now?
Right now is the off-season, so it’s mainly planning for future events, maintenance on equipment over the winter, and a little off-site catering and consulting. I’m also busy selling UrbanQ Smokehouse products and entering competitions. During the main season at Ohio Renaissance Park, which starts in May, it’s early morning smoking in preparation for the day, setting up microbrews and getting ready for all the summer events: Celtic Festival, the Ohio Renaissance Festival and new this year, the Ohio State Steak Cookoff. April through November is very busy juggling events and planning.
Why did you decide to stay in and settle in the Dayton area?
I have worked in four or five different states, but have always ended up back in Dayton because of family and the ease of living in the Dayton area.
What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?
The most recent professional challenge for anyone in the service industry as well as other industries is finding employees. It is a never-ending challenge and one that I think will only get worse as time goes on, and it’s already pretty bad.
What are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton area?
The Pine Club, Pho Mi, Sky Asian Cuisine, and Cobblestone Cafe.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Skyline and Flying Pizza
I’ve been able to make a great living here, and it’s easy to live in Dayton. The food, wine and beer culture is growing but difficult at the same time. It’s always challenging, but I like it that way.