‘Barbecue is his life’Daviau opens Damn Yankees BBQ in South Deerfield

  • Jessica Balk, Michael Jones, owner Richard Daviau and Vicky Rios of Damn Yankees BBQ in South Deerfield.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Vicky Rios of Damn Yankees BBQ in South Deerfield slices up some smoked brisket.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Owner and Richard Daviau smokes some chicken wings in one of the smokers at Damn Yankees BBQ in South Deerfield.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A Smoked Brisket sandwich with corn bread and cole slaw at Damn Yankees BBQ.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Smoked chicken wings at Damn Yankees BBQ in South Deerfield.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Damn Yankees BBQ has opened in South Deerfield.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2018 11:49:00 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Richard Daviau is not a spiritual man.

But he can’t help but feel the barbecue gods were watching over him two weeks ago when he was wondering what would become of his business, Damn Yankees BBQ. His initial plan to set up at the Meadows Golf Course did not work out, and he was driving to Greenfield to pick up his equipment when he felt compelled to alter his typical route and take a right onto Sugarloaf Street, where it intersects with Sunderland Road.

“Somebody forcefully made me take a right. I kid you not, strike me down right now, I even … I said to myself as I’m turning the wheel, ‘Where are you going?’” he recalled Friday. “I crossed over the train tracks and it was like it jumped out in front of me — bam, Back Porch BBQ. And it clicked, ‘This is the place people were talking about, that closed down.’”

Daviau, who lives in Granby, had stumbled upon the small barbecue joint Rob Stockwell ran at 20 Elm St. for a couple of years before closing it in the fall. He contacted Stockwell through Facebook and soon started leasing his first Damn Yankees BBQ brick-and-mortar, having started the company in 2010.

“I want to tear up right now,” he said, brimming with joy and pride in one of the restaurant’s booths. “Things happen for a reason. I was just meant to be here. This is my spot.”

Daviau, 47, and his wife, Jennifer Malo, held a soft opening last weekend and went full throttle on Wednesday. The menu is starting small, but still has the staples a barbecue lover would expect — pulled pork, brisket, chicken, mac and cheese. He said he arrives to work at 1 a.m. and starts his smokers, to get them to the proper temperature. The owner said everything is made fresh in house and nothing comes out of a can.

Employee Jessica Balk, who serves food and handles counter service, said the restaurant has been getting busier each day. He said a lot of workers at Pelican Products Inc. on North Main Street have been stopping in for lunch.

“He’s got a great product,” she said. “He puts his heart and soul into it.”

Daviau explained he fell in love with food when he was 12, and his mother broke her back and could not cook. He decided he wanted to work in the restaurant industry after visiting an Italian eatery in his hometown of Chicopee two years later and hearing the commotion coming from the kitchen. He discovered his passion for barbecue in Savannah, Ga., when a construction company he was working for put him up in a hotel while he worked to rebuild the Imperial Sugar refinery that exploded in 2008. As is often the case in the South, there was a barbecue place next door. He started frequenting and never stopped asking questions of the owners.

“I really learned a lot from those guys, and whenever they’d see me coming, they would also say, ‘Here comes that damn yankee,’” he recounted. “And that’s how I got the name ‘Damn Yankees BBQ.’”

Daviau started off leasing a kitchen out of the now-closed Waterfront Tavern in Holyoke and then bought a food truck a few years ago.

Balk said she expects a busy weekend now that word has gotten out on social media and Daviau’s love for Southern cooking is contagious.

“I’m really happy to be working with them. Him and his wife (Jennifer Malo) are amazing, absolutely amazing. They’ve got the drive and the heart and the passion for this, definitely,” she said. “Barbecue is his life.”

The restaurant’s winter hours (unless the food is sold out) are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The phone number is 413-272-9347 and the website is: www.damnyankeesbbq.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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