Welcome to #CollectiveCountdown. We’ve partnered with the developers of The Collective Kitchens + Cocktails to bring you interviews and info about the 11 chefs and concepts chosen for the soon-to-open Midtown food hall. Major thanks to Okie Pokie and Chick-n-Beer for sponsoring these posts.
Mike Schornick’s wife thinks he’s crazy.
Mike doesn’t disagree.
The newest member of The Collective spent decades learning his trade...which had nothing to do with running a restaurant.
“I was a lifelong environmental engineer,” Schornick said. “When I left G.E. in 2017, I had a lot of options.”
But rather than open an engineering consulting firm or go into business with his peers, he decided he wanted to smoke meat for a living. That’s meat singular. Schornick wants to cook brisket and nothing but brisket. Which is what he’ll do at The Rockin’ L Ranch Smokehouse.
Mike describes himself as a science nerd and when he really got into smoking meat, he found himself immersed in an entirely new field with complex rules and subtle variations.
“My thing is the thermodynamics of smoking. The concept I have is real intense,” he said. “When I’m cooking, I take data every 15 minutes to ensure it’s perfect.”
But scientific perfection and culinary perfection are two very different things, Schornick said. That’s why he embraced the less-exact science of surveying his family and friends with batch after batch of briskets.
“I used their answers to hone in on the ideal tenderness, texture and beefiness of the brisket,” he said. “Now I’m producing a product that’s versatile, with a mild smoky flavor, a thinner bark and just enough fat to keep it juicy.”
Why only brisket?
“I mean, you can smoke any meat, but brisket can be anything. You can do a brisket any way you want,” he said. “But rather than spread out my focus, I decided to do like Col. Sanders and focus on one meat, so I can make it perfectly.”
The only meat at The Rockin’ L will be brisket, but that doesn’t mean the menu is just one item. A perfect brisket can be sliced or chopped, served plain or in a sandwich, made into tacos, used as a salad topping or as the meat in a chili, he said.
“I’ve also developed my own rub. And, grudgingly, my own barbecue sauce,” Schornick said.
The process isn’t like every other barbecue restaurant out there. Schornick broke down every step and put it back together in a way that will allow him the most control, ensuring a consistently excellent product.
That said, if you want brisket, you better get there early. Because once it sells out, it’s gone. That’s the trouble with a meat that requires 17 hours to prepare — it can’t be rushed.
Still, there will be sides. Rockin’ L will serve mac and cheese, cole slaw, brisket-y beans and jalapeno cornbread muffins.
And for dessert, the most un-barbecue dish I could personally imagine: creme brulee.
The menu will evolve continuously, Schornick said. As dedicated as he is to brisket, he wants to bring the same dedication to his customers’ happiness.
Be sure to come back next week for another #CollectiveCountdown, brought to you by Okie Pokie and Chick-n-Beer. And keep an eye on thecollectiveokc.com for more info as the food hall prepares to open.