Grilling his Passion

Rick Schaefer is a familiar outdoor chef

If you’re a regular at area festivals or you enjoy stopping at Dayton’s Courthouse Square at lunchtime, chances are you’ve encountered Rick Schaefer.

A familiar sight in his black chef’s hat and jacket, Schaefer can be found standing over a hot grill under a big blue sign that says “Brock Mastersons.” The company’s name comes from two family names that were merged.

His popular and healthy food options include fresh sashimi grade salmon steaks, portobello mushrooms sandwiches, Down East crab cakes, Reuben sandwiches, and his new Brock’s Hash — a combination of sweet potatoes, Yukon Gold and Redskin potatoes fried in olive oil and butter.

This weekend you’ll find Schaefer and his crew at the Celtic Festival at Riverscape in Dayton. The following weekend they’ll be at the Dublin Irish Festival in Columbus.

Summer seems the perfect time to chat Schaefer about grilling and his love of cooking.

Q. How did you become interested in cooking?

A. Very simple, my mother. As kids we would have special breakfasts on Sundays where she would make family favorites like apple pancakes, sausage gravy and homemade buttermilk biscuits, and Eggs Benedict. Dinners would include Beef Stroganoff over wild rice, baked chicken with zucchini and creamed carrots, and various spaghetti dishes.

Needless to say, I involved myself in the preparation process and my love of cooking grew. Growing up in the’70s with a single mom, sometimes food was scarce but when we did sit down to have a meal it was a time to celebrate and be together. My mom always taught me to look for quality in the meal, quality in the raw ingredients and quality in the finished product.

Q. Why did you return to Dayton?

A. This love and appreciation of food that was rooted in my childhood expanded into adulthood when in 1995 I turned down an executive level promotion in hotel management and came home to go into the food business with my mother, Nanci Schaefer at Nanci’s Fancies in Oakwood.

While I truly enjoyed the hotel business, I felt a pull towards food and returning home to the comforts of Dayton.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your current business?

A. There are three primary facets to my business: catering, festivals and Courthouse Square/retail. I am excited to be diving into the retail side of the business with the new addition of my four grilling spices and T-shirts and hope to continue to expand the retail offerings over the next year, to offer items such as dill sauce, crab cakes and dressings. I am proud to be a Dayton-based company, employing 4 full-time, 5 part-time and 20 staff as needed for events.

Q. What are you best known for? What are some of the favorite things on your menu?

A. I think we are best known for being a very personalized and versatile caterer and very flexible with our menu offerings; we are known for establishing relationships with our clients beyond the wedding reception, anniversary party, graduation, bar mitzvah, or private dinner party.

When we sit down with a client, the very first question we ask them is, “What do you like to eat?” versus just handing them a cookie cutter menu.

As for favorites, it’s so hard to pick, but if I’m being forced to choose, I guess my favorites are: individual Beef Wellington in a port wine reduction, blue lump crab cake over our three-potato hash, or our fresh-seared tuna served with wasabi and sesame, soy, ginger sauce.

Q. What do you like about working festivals? How many do you do a year?

A. We go to about 20 festivals a year. Our first festival was Holiday at Home in Kettering in 1987, and even then, 25 years before gourmet food trucks were on the scene, I found myself wanting to give the customer something more. We certainly had a few crazy looks from fellow vendors and customers when we rolled out Portobello mushrooms, Big Fat Reubens, and Wild-caught Salmon but thankfully the customers decided they wanted gourmet food options at the local festivals.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t grilled before? What equipment would you recommend for the at-home cook?

A. If you are grilling meat, always make sure that you are using fresh versus frozen meat, make sure your grill is hot, and use a cast iron grate if possible.

Secondly, take the meat off the grill a few minutes before you think it is ready and allow it to “rest.” Your meat will continue to slowly cook more evenly from the outside in and will give you the finished product you desire versus an overcooked piece of meat. Plus, regardless of how much rub or marinade you put on the meat before or during the grilling process, I think it is important to season the finished product before serving. Marinades, rubs,and pre-seasonings can get lost in the grilling process.

Also, if you are charcoal grilling, be sure to add some hickory chips; they add a lot of flavor to your meal.

Q. What are a couple of your favorite ingredients? How would someone use them if they are just starting out?

A. I love Parmesan cheese, butter and olive oil! When making a grilled cheese, for instance, start with a good, crusty artisan bread, sprinkle the inside with Parmesan cheese, take four of your favorite cheeses, add them to the sandwich and sizzle in a pan of olive oil. Delicious.

Q. What are your plans for the future?

A. We are actually going to be debuting my new line of gourmet grilling spices at the Oakwood Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings!

Q. What’s your favorite type of dining experience?

A. One of my favorite pastimes is to seek out the mom-and-pop local restaurants, diners and food establishments looking for the best food and the down-home service. There is nothing quite like driving out in the country and pulling into a “country-kitchen” and being well-fed by a local family.

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