Delaware Chef Gerald Allen Sets the State’s Barbecue Scene on Fire

Photo by Andre Wright Jr.

Wilmington chef Gerald Allen brings his barbecue skills and creative process to pop-up restaurants across the Brandywine Valley.

Chef Gerald Allen is always on the hunt for delicious fare.

“My first epic food adventure took place seven years ago when I traveled across the country on a barbecue tour,” he says.

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Chef Gerald Allen, pictured here at G & R Recreation Campground in Houston, Delaware, learned from his grandparents how to cook at an early age. Now he prepares creative dishes at a variety of local pop-up events./Photo by Andre Wright Jr.

Since then, Allen’s travels have mostly revolved around food. This past summer, he and a cousin road-tripped to the Carolinas to sample barbecue at more than 10 different places, where he plans to return “for more barbecue” before heading to Maine for its famous lobster rolls.

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Miles on the odometer and a full stomach are part of the chef’s creative process.

Culinary instinct was instilled in Allen from a young age, when he’d watch his grandparents cook homemade dishes in their family kitchens.

“Both of my amazing grandmothers gave me many food experiences as a kid,” he remembers. “My grandma Lucinda made amazing pancakes at her home in Lewes, and my grandmother Ruth made delicious cucumber and tomato salad for me in the summertime at her house in Wilmington. My grandfather also grew vegetables that were really good. I remember picking and eating them as a kid.”

Today, Allen and his wife, Natalie Egüez—also a chef—continue the legacy. Allen serves his own recipes at a variety of pop-up events across the Brandywine Valley and teaches aspiring chefs at Hodgson Vocational Technical High School in Newark.

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“The more I was in the industry, the more I wanted to coach and teach individuals I was working with,” he says.

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The couple built a following with their Sunday Supper meals at SIW Farms in Chadds Ford, where their menu—dishes like smoked half-chicken, meatloaf and thick-cut pork loin with a variety of fresh vegetables from the farm—is available for preorder a few days before the pickup weekend.

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Gerald’s palate for vegetables grew as a child because of his grandfather’s garden, where he remembers eating fresh produce off the vine./Photo by Andre Wright Jr.

Allen is also becoming a dedicated student of the smoker, utilizing it to create a depth of flavor in meats. Classically trained at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, he remembers the late Matt Haley of SoDel Concepts commenting during his exit interview that Allen would one day return to Delaware and the barbecue.

He didn’t believe it at the time.

“[But] he nailed it right on the head,” Allen concedes. “To come back to [something] so easy, so simple…that’s not progressive, that’s not edgy, that’s not forward-thinking. But…every restaurant that I’ve worked at had something smoked on the menu.”

As for what’s next, Allen has a lot in his recipe book.

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In December, he’ll participate in a food art exhibition in Wilmington, where he’ll host weekend tasting dinners. The Noodle Boys pop-up event in Wilmington is also on Allen’s agenda, among others possibly to come.

“The goal is to consistently stay creative while building relationships with others,” he says.

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