Tom Caulfield, Owner of Chubby’s Barbecue, 16430 Old Frederick Road, Emmitsburg

Posted on 05.22.13 – People & Places, Q&A

Although the hardcore backyard griller isn’t going to let a little snow and freezing temperatures stand in the way of a perfectly charred steak, for the rest of us, May is the official opening of the grilling season.

Who better to question about the topic than someone whose livelihood is built on barbecue? Tom Caulfield was born and grew up in Chevy Chase Village, graduating from Mount St. Mary’s in 1970. He spent much of his career in sales, including as owner of a ball point pen company in California, marketing a pen he designed.

He was also in the oil business and when oil slumped he and his wife moved back East where he was a stock broker and the owner of the former Blue Ridge Country Store in Emmitsburg. “I always wanted to own a restaurant,” he says, and in December 2002 he opened Chubby’s.

What is it about warm weather, a grill and a piece of meat? Why are people so into grilling?
It’s about relaxation, enjoyment, taste buds, competition (who can grill the best porterhouse?), family and friends. When was the last time you heard anyone say, ‘Darn, I have to go to a BBQ tonight, it’s 78 degrees, there’s a new grill, the guy cooking fixes the best steak ever, a lot of great people are going to be there and I might have to drink a cold beer.’ Warm weather, grill, great slab of meat—they all complement each other, and shout, “Let the fun begin!” People are so into grilling because you eat with your eyes first and watching the chemistry of a steak form perfect grill marks enhances the drool factor.

Which is best: gas or charcoal?
Gas is easy, good charcoal is the only way to get intense flavor, whether you’re cooking hot dogs or filet mignon. It’s important to use the best charcoal you can find—charcoal that is presoaked in lighter fluid is nasty. I do use gas in the winter, as it’s fast, easy, and I’ll give up some flavor to avoid frostbite. These days the price of propane gas is through the roof, but who cares when it’s compared to a great grilled lunch or dinner.

Naturally you want people to patronize your restaurant, but for the do-it-yourselfer, what are some tips?
Learn proper internal temperatures from rare to well done. Use a thermometer. Brine your meat, including chicken, for at least 24 to 48 hours before grilling. Experiment with different rubs and make your own. After brining, marinate your product at least four hours, apply a rub. Make sure your charcoal is cooked down properly.

Who would you like to compete against, Bobby Flay or Guy Fieri?
I’d like to do a throw-down with either, but if I had to choose one it would be Bobby. He’s so well known and is a fabulous chef, and getting bragging rights over him would be great. Yes, I would like to be on his show, but Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I’m more in line with!

Would you ever consider becoming a vegetarian?
I would consider becoming a vegetarian … when bacon stops tasting good, not a moment before!

For more information about Chubby’s Barbecue, phone 301-447-3322 or visit