“My people were part of the great migration. I was born in the South, but I grew up in Chicago,” said Curt Bradley – the Legendary Mr. B himself, whose barbecue sauces are so good that they defy description. “Now, in Chicago there’s a barbecue joint on every corner. And that’s no big deal, because there’s nine million people living in Cook County alone.
“When I moved up to Bloomington in ’77, there were no barbecue joints here. I couldn’t even get greens – you know, turnip, mustard and collard – at the markets in Bloomington. I had to go to the ethnic market in North Minneapolis just to get the ingredients I needed to cook for March Madness. That, or bring them back from Chicago.
“I first started selling barbecue at my church. I got into catering soon after that, and then entered into an agreement with Red Owl. I’ve also had several restaurants around the Twin Cities over the years, but what really brought my cooking to the mainstream was my Mr. B’s stand at the Xcel Center. I sold barbecue there for 15 years and I’d sell out of food every single game. I got quite a following – hockey fans still call me up saying ‘Mr. B, my daughter is graduating this year and I need you to come cook for us!’ The catering side of my business has always been busy, but my main goal – my mission – is selling my barbecue sauce.
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret: All of us barbecue guys think our sauce is the best. If you don’t believe in your product, you should get out of the game. But the truth is, even if you think your sauce is the best, my recipe is better. I’ve cut from Frisco to Maine and I’ve never been beat.
“All barbecue sauces basically have the same ingredients in them. It’s their ratios that set them apart, and they’re so complex that you can’t even patent a barbecue sauce. But my recipe stands above all others. I use all-natural ingredients, with no fructose or corn starch. My base is 100 percent pure apple juice, with tomato paste and a complex blend of fresh seasonings, herbs and spices. Whatever kind of meat you put my sauce on, you’ve never tasted anything like it.
“I wasn’t born of privilege. I never had a boatload of money. I’ve cooked at stadiums, private events, food shows, road shows, county fairs and grocery stores – pretty much anywhere a little guy like me could get some exposure. And in all this time, I’ve never had a broker to help sell my products. The big brokers all said I was too small. The small brokers all tried to nickel and dime me. That kind of left me stuck in the middle where I’ve had to do all the heavy lifting on my own.
“But I’m a religious man. I believe in God. I’m grateful for all the ways I’ve been blessed. With His help and a lot of hard work, I’ve gotten my sauces on store shelves around the Twin Cities. Getting into [editor’s note: at this point Curt mentioned a grocery store that is not Cub Foods and will not be mentioned here, but it rhymes with “fly-sea”] gave me a lot of exposure, and at that point a lot of the other stores started giving me the recognition I’ve been looking for all these years. I’m 72 now, and Mr. B’s is still getting bigger and bigger every day.
“I’m passionate about what I do and I got the gift of gab. That’s why I love going to grocery stores around the cities like Cub Foods to give cooking demonstrations. I make so many meatballs when I’m there that the guys who stock the shelves have to refill the meat coolers five or six times in a single day. And I can count on selling 40 to 50 cases of barbecue sauce while I’m there.
“You should see the look on someone’s face when they try The Legendary Mr. B’s Bar-B-Q Sauce. It’s like they’ve never had real barbecue sauce before. That’s because I’m a one-man wrecking crew in the sauce world. I’ve gotten the door slammed on my face too many times to count, but when your sauce is the best in the world, you know you owe it to people to never give up.”
The Legendary Mr. B’s Bar-B-Q Sauce is available at 45 different grocery stores throughout Minnesota. To find the closest store to you or to engage Minnesota’s greatest barbecue man to cook for your upcoming special event, please visit mrbsbarbecue.com.
By David Scheller