'These guys can actually cook': McHenry native immersed in ManBQue group

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Meat and beer and rock ’n’ roll.

To John Carruthers, this is a mantra, a code, a way of life. With an affinity for tasty and often unusual grilled creations, craft beer – none of that watered-down hop slosh – and at the very least hilarious conversation, Carruthers found himself in 2009 attending a night out amongst men, crowded around a grill, with low expectations.

“I was expecting warm beer, burnt burgers and meat,” Carruthers said. “Then I got there and was like, ‘Wow, these guys can actually cook.’”

That night, Carruthers, a McHenry native, attended his first ManBQue “MEATing.” The rest is history.

ManBQue is a men’s grilling and lifestyle organization appealing to the self-proclaimed grillmasters, beer connoisseurs and music enthusiasts.

A true believer, Carruthers is held in high standing as vice president of the organization, as well as managing editor of the group’s website, and recently he has been tasked with running the catering division.

With chapters from Seattle to Detroit to Leipzig, Germany, what started as a group of guys from Chicago armed with meat, beer and some glowing embers, quickly is turning into an international phenomena.

Early on, Carruthers caught the grilling bug, though not in the capacity that would have led him to believe there was a future in it. Throughout high school, Carruthers worked at Nestlerest Park in Lake Zurich, grilling corn and other food fare for events held there.

After college, Carruthers found himself writing for a newspaper in Hawaii and dining on what wouldn’t exactly be described as top-notch cuisine.

“I was in my apartment nuking a hot pocket, a necessary food group for post-college bachelors, and I took a bite and found a bone in it,” said Carruthers, still disgusted. “After that ,I swore when I got back to Chicago, I would teach myself to cook.”

A man of his word, Carruthers returned to Illinois and took cooking classes in Chicago, settling in Lincoln Square, now home to him and his wife, Emily.

A writer by trade and by day, Carruthers spends his evenings and weekends doing all things ManBQue. What started as a personal interest has developed into a passion for Carruthers that has taken him to a recognized name, repeated local guest spots on “Windy City Live” and “Chicago’s Best TV,” as well as national recognition as guest on the “Today” show.

ManBQue has grown in size and appearances since its initial gathering in 2006 and expanded from monthly “MEATings” to include co-ed functions and most recently, the launch of its first cookbook on April 22 – “ManBQue: Meat. Beer. Rock & Roll: 120 Essential Recipes for the Modern Man” (Running Press).

Carruthers co-wrote the book with founder and president of ManBQue Jesse Valenciana, who is aptly named “The Godfather.”

The book covers grill prep, butchering, beer pairings and grilling tools and includes a plethora of mouth-watering hearty fare from beer cheese to burgers to marinades and a whole section on wings.

For the adventurous, there are pork tongue and whole hog tacos, just to name of a few of the many featured exotic recipes that have made their way to the menu.

The two were approached by the agent for award-winning chef Rick Bayless who asked if they’d be interested in writing a cookbook.

Carruthers and Valenciana hit the ground running in mid-2012 and never looked back. Although Carruthers found some of the process trying, he deemed it an incredible experience that he enjoyed so much, they’re already in the works of a second edition.

“Food writing is precious. There’s a lot of negativity in it,” Carruthers said. “We want to explain how and why you do what you do prepare certain foods in order to get the best results.”

What was the hardest part?

“We had to leave some really cool recipes out. You want to cover everything but you can’t. We’ll just save it for the next book,” Carruthers said.

ManBQue continues to be a force in the men’s grilling world, and Carruthers said they hope to continue to grow their following, come one, come all.

“When it comes down to it, it’s not really about the food,” he said. “You meet all these people you never would have met from different walks and you realize you’re not that different. It’s a united nations of grilling.”

“ManBQue: Meat. Beer. Rock & Roll: 120 Essential Recipes for the Modern Man” is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and ManBQue.com.

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