Brendon was born in Iowa but did most of his growing up right outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin. When he was young he’d often spend school vacations helping out at his uncle’s dairy farm. While feeding cows, picking stones, and shoveling back-end products he gained a real appreciation for the hard work that goes into keeping people fed. After high school he moved to Milwaukee, WI to pursue a fine arts degree. While in school he worked mostly in restaurants and the more time he spent in kitchens the more he realized that he loved creating pretty things with his hands. After Brendon graduated college he immediately loaded all of his possessions into his Ford Explorer and headed West. His romantic notion was to move to Seattle for the mountains, the ocean, the music, and the food. Driving out, he thought he knew how to cook, but he got a few gigs working dive bars and cafes, and quickly realized there was an entirely different level of food and cooking to be attained. He eventually ended up at Tom Douglas Restaurants and found himself opening up the Yucatan inspired Cantina Lena. It was here where he started learning about the beauty and art of live fire cooking.
Drew grew up in Oklahoma and started working in kitchens in high school. After having more fun flipping burgers and making sandwiches than studying while in college, he decided to move to Texas and pursue cooking as a career. He learned the old school techniques at a country club, but truly began learning how to cook after being part of the opening team at the acclaimed Italian restaurant Lucia. Hand making pasta and curing salumi led to a broader interest in Italian culture and a desire to connect with where our food comes from. In 2012 he accepted an internship at Spannocchia, a 900 year old Tuscan farm that alongside making wine & olive oil, raises the revered Cinta Senese pigs. As a butcher’s apprentice, Drew was able to learn the traditional Tuscan practices of curing meat and making sausage. After a year and a half in Italy, he took an opportunity to oversee the raising of these same pigs that had recently been imported to a farm in Northern California. After a year of living in an Airstream on the farm, he decided to get back to cooking and moved to Seattle. While running the kitchen at Pike Place Market’s DeLaurenti, he met and immediately fell for a very cute girl selling cheese in their deli. They continued to work together as Nicki became the cheese buyer and they married in 2018. During this time, Drew started smoking meat in their backyard and they dreamed of a future working for themselves and moving to a small town. In 2020, Drew was able to work at Wood Shop BBQ before it closed due to Covid. However, this closure led to the formation of Bootleg Barbecue as they began packaging smoked meats and delivering them around the city. Eventually they began doing pop-ups at local breweries with people lining up for hours to try the barbecue. In March of 2021 they made their dream a reality and moved to their new home in The Columbia River Gorge.
Sam grew up in Hurst, TX – smack in the middle of Dallas and Fort Worth – and has loved barbecue from a young age. Some of his favorite childhood memories involve swimming all day at Grapevine Lake then sliding a tray down the rails at a local barbecue joint for chopped brisket sandwiches and fried okra. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma Sam spent four years in San Antonio with then girlfriend (now wife) Allison. While there he became certified as an EMT and graduated with honors from a Fire Science and Firefighting Academy. Sam and Allison moved to Portland in 2011 but due to city budget restrictions on the hiring of new firefighters he got a job instead at a local brewery. Sam worked his way up from pulling pints and washing kegs to become Head Brewer and Manager of Operations. When Covid hit he was laid off, but was ready for the chance to start fresh with a new idea and a boatload of experience. Backyard cooking and barbecuing had long been a hobby while brewing professionally but now he thinks he might have to dust off the old homebrewing gear.