Article by Debra Freeman with photography by Fitz
Lead photo of Chef/ Pitmaster Chris Bailey at Barbeque by Froggies
Growing up in Chesterfield County in Virginia, it’s no surprise that Chris Bailey takes the craft of smoked meats and barbecue seriously. On his many trips to the Outer Banks when he was young, his family would always stop at Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que in Williamsburg on the way. And then there were the cured and smoked meats in the house; in his words, “my grandmother is a true Roanoke woman after all.”
Early in his career, Bailey washed dishes in high school, delivered pizzas, and worked in a creperie place outside of Richmond. Eventually he would learn about various types of meats at Top of the World in Colorado, and about smoking meats in Seattle. Later, Bailey had the opportunity to work with Mario Batali’s father and sister at Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, where he honed his knowledge for meat curing.
After moving back to Virginia about seven years ago, Bailey has worked in several well known Hampton Roads restaurants, including Terrapin, The Leaping Lizard Cafe, Byrd and Baldwin, and Lynnhaven Coffee Company. At Lynnhaven Coffee Company, he was able to churn out great sandwiches in spite of not having a kitchen. He was innovative enough to cure salmon in dill, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, kosher salt, Hawaiian sea salt, and brown sugar.
Bailey took over the reins at Froggies in June of this year, and there were major staff changes that took place; all but two staffers are new to Froggies, and cook Derek Lemmon has been a loyal part of the team for the past five years, and continues to be valuable to the success of the restaurant.
Bailey also decided to scrap the majority of the menu; he says, “it was double sided with every kind of food and was trying to do too much. Now there is a barbecue focus.” Owners Bill and Debbie Bickel also made it a priority to upgrade the kitchen, and there are two new smokers. In fact, a smoker is highly visible from Shore Drive, and is lit up for passersby to see.
One of the standout items on the menu at Froggies is the smoked chicken; in fact, it is considered to be some of the best in the area. Bailey attributes this to the spices used, and the meticulous nature of how it is prepared. He comments that, “heavy seasoning does things to the skins, and there are certain places in the smoker where the chicken goes.
Every time you have my smoked chicken, it’s been smoked whole. I don’t brine and I use three kinds of salt, so it’s more of a crust and not a rub. And I use all wood to cook, not propane.”
The deep barbecue tradition that runs deep in Virginia continues to be a strong one with chefs like Bailey who are dedicated to taking the time to truly create memorable and delicious meals that reflect the care that he has put into his work. And at 48, Bailey has been able to leapfrog into being a culinary force to be reckoned with.
For more on Chef Chris Bailey and Barbeque by Froggies, visit: barbequebyfroggies.com
Barbeque by Froggies is located at 3656 Shore Dr in Virginia Beach