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After years of cooking for others and learning the skills of the trade, chef David Welch is working on expanding his smoked and grilled meats business into a brick and mortar concept on Loop 494 in Kingwood in 2019, building a home for his special talents he’s accumulated over three decades. FireCraft BBQ will add to its catering business with a new restaurant that will serve succulent cuts in a relaxed, traditional Texas style gathering place, with a wine and beer garden in the back and lawn games for kids.
“I just want to get them coming and going, any which way I can,” Welch said. “Either I’ll bring it to you, you can buy it from me as a pick up, or you can come buy the products that we do and you can make your own trays from the things that we’d use anyway. We have a multi-faceted approach to what we want to do.”
Welch has a long history of working in kitchens. Originally, he aspired to be an artist, finding success in high school as a major prize winner at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo. But those talents translated to cooking for others and he soon found himself learning all he could about being a chef, including time absorbing the knowledge of top-rated culinary artists in Paris, France.
“What was stressed in that environment was slow food, minimalist ingredients, taking lesser cuts [of meat] and making them delicious,” Welch said. “I gravitated to the challenge of learning these old cooking techniques. It was intriguing from a chef’s point of view.”
When he returned to Texas, he spent time working for Landry’s and Pappas restaurants where he mastered American fare, Asian, Italian, Cajun, and seafood cuisine. Eventually, he found his way up the Eastex Freeway, seeking a working relationship that would allow his talent to shine through.
“After my French culinary education, I went right into corporate [cooking],” David recalls. “I didn’t really like that, and then I went out, searching for private restauranteurs that were making it. I answered an ad for Tony Raffa and the rest is history.”
He worked as a chef at both of Raffa’s popular Kingwood restaurants, Amedeo’s and the namesake establishment, Raffa’s. It was a working relationship that lasted 14 years, one that Welch looks back on fondly.
“He was my mentor, for sure, for many years,” Welch said. “A self-made restauranteur, a super guy. I got a lot to look up to with him and he taught me many lessons.”
In 2015, Welch answered the urge to pursue his love of barbeque and began FireCraft BBQ. His love affair of the fine art of smoked, flame-grilled meat began in earnest through traditional Texas cookbooks that touted classic German and Czech techniques and recipes. He perfected his art by competing and cooking at some of the biggest events, once again finding his way back to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as well as the Humble Rodeo & BBQ Cook-Off.
He expects FireCraft BBQ to be open in six months, ready to serve everything he’s known for through his catering business: brisket, beef ribs, burnt ends, beef rib pastrami and other meats, alongside his very own rubs and sauces. Is it healthy to salivate for an entire half-year?
“Our claim to fame is we don’t pre-cook, pre-cut anything,” Welch said. “If we’re doing something, it’s fresh, it’s coming off the three hours of rest before we cut it. It’s all in the name: we cook with fire and we have a craft product.”
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