Jorge Gonzalez had a little extra hop working his grill last weekend at the Tillsonburg Ribfest.
Bopping to the music, almost dancing while turning, flipping and adding sauce to the Gonzalez BBQ ribs and chicken, he was obviously having a good time.
“What it was,” said Gonzalez, “is that these two years have been so hard that we don’t have very much time to enjoy. So when we come to a ribfest it’s like a pressure cooker ‘sssssssss’ and we just have a good time for three days.
“That’s what we are about – flavour and good service.”
And the flavour has changed, Conzalez noted, since the last local ribfest.
“You have to keep progressing, you have to tweak it. We still have the original flavour in the sauce bottle, and the rub, but sometimes we have to put something more into it – to make it better, to put more flavour on. Because you’ve got to remember, we’re here for a competition. In the winter we work on the recipe, what are we going to put in this? We put it together and say ‘Yeah this is the one I’m going to go for.’ It’s a real competition and in a competition you’ve got to get better.
“I try to excel, and maybe that’s what I call one of my ‘good problems,’ is that I always try to make it the best I can, I try to excel.”
Gonzalez recalls watching a video that suggested if you lived 90 years, you would spend 30 of those years sleeping, 30 years working, and maybe 30 years trying to figure out how to pay your hydro and all the bills.
“So make sure in your 30 years you get a good mattress, and you spend your 30 years at work in a job that you love! And that makes sense.
“Even when it rained yesterday (Saturday), I always say, ‘the sun will come after.’ It’s always a dry road ahead of you, it’s always a dry road behind you. So the sun will come out. And look, we had a beautiful rest of the day, a beautiful dinner yesterday.”
It was another long day for Gonzalez on Saturday, but when he woke up Sunday he was happy.
“It’s like if you ask, ‘Well where are you going?’ And I say, ‘I’m going to work! I’m going to Ribfest!’ It’s that grill. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the barbecue sauce, the combination of the smoke, the smell, and those beautiful ribs that fall off the bone… they make you feel like, ‘Oh God, I’m in heaven.’ This is better than a trip to Mexico right now.”
He’ll still go to Mexico, of course, but right now… it’s good.
The Gonzalez family still travels together to ribfests across the province.
“They go with me everywhere I go – my wife and two kids. It’s a family environment.
“And we try to incorporate them (other Gonzalez workers) into the family. We treat them with the respect they deserve hoping that we will get the same respect in return and we will get along very well. You’ve got to tend to the people who work for you because without them we wouldn’t be able to make this. They are the bone of the rib. We sell the ribs but they are the bones!”
Gonzalez noted the Tillsonburg area continues to support its local ribfest organizers, the Tillsonburg Thunder hockey team, “and the people are happy to see us come to town.”
“Not every little town has a ribfest. You have to have such an amount of people to do all this and it’s very expensive to move these trailers up and down. And there’s more competition going on, so it makes it harder. It’s been too sad (with COVID) but hopefully next year it will be good.”
It was the third time for Gonzalez BBQ at the Tillsonburg Ribfest, and Jorge, who is based in the London area, said he enjoys it every year, as well as Woodstock.
“Who knows? I wish one day to have a restaurant here. The people can enjoy chicken and ribs and also the Latin culture – the tacos, the enchiladas.
“It’s been three years – we’ll see if Tillsonburg wants me back next year,” Jorge concluded with a laugh. “You should ask that, ‘do you want Gonzalez back?’”