Midnight Snack: The Kansas City BBQ Company with Derek Houck

I assume that every town in every state in every country has a "local favorite" restaurant. It might be great, it might be okay at best, but, if you're from that town, it probably holds a special place in your heart. When you go home, you look forward to one meal at this local place partly for the food, but also to remember its link to your own past.

With all of the people from all over the world here in Los Angeles, we see restaurants that try to repeat that home cooking magic and share those culinary remembrances. From all sorts of international cuisine to Chicago-style pizza to Philly cheesesteaks to Kansas City BBQ, you can find it here, and hope and pray it measures up to your memories. I visited The Kansas City BBQ Company with Derek Houck, the actor and producer of the cooking show parody "Napoleon Bon Appetit" as we both returned to our Missouri barbecue roots.

Jason: What would you recommend?

Derek: Sliced pork is good. Sliced beef. I've heard people say good things about the chicken. Their hot links are good too. Pretty much anything with meat on this menu. Beans are good. Sweet potato fries are seriously addicting.

Jason: How long have you lived in Los Angeles now?

Derek: I've lived in L.A. since 2003. I came out here for AADA, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, and was there for about two and a half years. I've been out here since working and auditioning.

Jason: You came here from Kansas City?

Derek: Yes. So, finding this place after a couple of years was a joy to find a little bit of Kansas City. It's not exactly the same as Kansas City barbecue. The sauce is pretty similar and the meat is just really good.

Jason: Whenever you think of Kansas City barbecue, what are your favorite places to go whenever you get to go back?

Derek: I'm actually going back this summer for my 10-year high school reunion. There's a place close by where I used to live, Smokehouse BBQ. They did burnt ends really well. You cannot find them outside of Kansas City. They're essentially chunks of beef brisket seared on one side and really juicy and tender on the other side. They have something called burnt ends on this menu, but it's not the same. Every barbecue place I tried outside of Kansas City -- it's not burnt ends.

Jason: I agree with you. I'm a big fan of Arthur Bryant's burnt ends. Every once in a while you'll see something and it's shredded and it's, no, that's not quite it.

Derek: Jack Stack has good burnt ends in Kansas City as well. I think for a couple years my dad would actually mail me out some Jack Stack barbecue for my birthday.

Jason: Oooh.

Derek: It was nice. Stick that in the oven for like thirty minutes or so and you got Kansas City barbecue in your apartment in Los Angeles.

Jason: Very beautiful. I had just been subscribing to a few things on YouTube and I subscribed to 20/20 productions and I got to watch "Napoleon Bon Appetit." How did that come about for you?

Derek: I was in an acting class called Steven Book's Acting Workshop and met my best friend there, Katherine, who is my co-producer on "Napoleon Bon Appetit." She also plays the kitchen wench in that show. A couple years into the class we decided we wanted to produce a web series so that we could earn our eligibility into what was then SAG and is now SAG/AFTRA. We ended up being very happy with the product and decided to release it online. It originally premiered on a distribution channel that's unfortunately no longer active, casting director Bonnie Gillespie's "Somebody's Basement." But any series that premiered on that channel qualified for IMDB, which is really nice. Usually you have to qualify for certain festivals in order to get your credit on IMDB. So we released our first two seasons on that channel and one thing that did not happen was HD-quality video capability. I was looking around for something else, another channel that would do that, and we landed on Blip. That allowed us to embed the video on our website and on Blip in HD, which my director loved because he was very convinced that most of the jokes were lost in the standard resolution. It's a very visual series.

Jason: Yes it is.

Derek: A lot of the jokes are played for facial expressions, little visual moments, so it definitely helped. We were able to send "Napoleon" out to TV screens and all over the internet where we hadn't been able to before. That got us the attention of the people at 20/20. They approached us with a distribution deal and we're now redistributing the first two seasons with them.

Jason: I tend to not like to watch too many videos on my computer because it's a small screen. Whereas now with YouTube you can get it through Xbox and boom, I can watch the whole "Napoleon Bon Appetit." And you're right, in high definition and on the big screen, it makes it more enjoyable. I hadn't seen the small version, but the flour on the face in the fourth episode was cool.

Derek: Definitely. That episode benefits greatly from the high definition because a lot of it, a lot of the gag, Napoleon's covered in flour and shakes it off at different moments and it helps to see the flour fall off of him. Through Blip and through 20/20 we've been able to get "Napoleon Bon Appetit" seen by more people than you'd ever been able to do before the internet came along. For as little of a budget as we had, the amount of reach that our series can get now is almost unfathomable.

Jason: So, you and Katherine decide to produce this. Where did you get the idea?

Derek: I can't take credit for the idea. What was Katherine and her dad sitting down, and for some reason they got on the topic of projects or characters that I could portray. They came out with two ideas and they were both puns. One of them was "Napoleon Bon Appetit" and it was just the words, "Napoleon Bon Appetit" -- Napoleon does a cooking show. The other was "David Hassel-half-off" and that one hasn't really gotten off the ground.

Jason: David Hassel-half-off?

Derek: Oh yes. It seems a little more complex to put together.

Jason: To me it seems like Katherine and her father like to make short jokes.

Derek: We went full throttle on the short jokes because it's Napoleon. The tag line is, "The cooking show with a complex." You have to emphasize it. I'm not completely naïve. I know exactly what I have to sell and it's actually very nice to use that for comedic effect because there are plenty of roles I'll never qualify for because I'm quite short. But doing this series I've created a role that I am perfect for and that's a very nice feeling.

The Kansas City BBQ Company,
10863 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, 818-754-0030

[Photos by A. Rios/R.E.]



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