The chef and owner of Northern Michigan restaurant Smoke & Porter is the Foodie File from the December 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Learn more about Henry Bisson’s background and barbecue style from food and drinks editor, Tim Tebeau.

Henry Bisson learned his kitchen craft at NMC’s culinary program, interned on the coasts and returned north to work under Michael Peterson at Lulu’s Bistro in Bellaire, where he served as chef de cuisine. This summer Bisson launched Smoke & Porter, his entree into the Traverse City food scene. We sit down with Henry to find out about the genesis of his new project, talk wood-fired cooking and get a DIY lesson in wood-roasted prime rib.

How does fire inform the concept and cooking at Smoke & Porter?

It’s an approach to slow food. As human beings we’ve been cooking over fire since the very beginning, and I think we have an instinctual reaction to the smell of meat and woodsmoke. We share the 45th parallel with a lot of places where wood-roasting is an important part of the cuisine. Plus almost everyone loves smoked meats.

Unless they’re vegetarian.


How does smoke function outside of barbecue?

Using it with savory preparations, you’re going to get another layer of flavor. I always considered that prime rib was a bland meat fad from the ’80s, but when I rub one down with salt and herbs and cook it for two hours in the smoker … I can eat that any day of the week.

Now you’ve got us hungry for wood-roasted prime rib. What’s the method for doing this at home?

You can simply use a charcoal grill with a thermometer. Liberally season a standing rib roast with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary or tarragon and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Start a small fire in the grill with chunks of hardwood to maintain a temp of 250 degrees and roast the meat until you get the desired doneness on a meat thermometer. You’ll have to feed wood to the fire periodically to maintain temperature.

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Photo(s) by Dave Weidner