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Good touch for a big man, but can Crouchy BBQ

Chris Stark is mad about barbecue; Peter Crouch, whose podcast he co-hosts, less so. RUPERT BATES meets a man on a mission

 Rupert Bates   Spring 2023

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 #ChrisStark # PeterCrouch # Interview




Peter Crouch refers to Chris Stark as that BBQ **** – Cook? King? Nerd? Geek? I’m told to keep guessing.

To be fair regular listeners of That Peter Crouch Podcast know the answer, for according to the former England footballer turned multimedia personality, Stark is always “banging on about barbecue”. Presumably Statman Dave can give us the precise number.

Stark is unapologetic and wears his moniker – branded merchandise might be a step too far – as a badge of honour. You sense, despite Stark’s busy schedule, including early morning starts as co-host on Capital FM’s Breakfast show with Roman Kemp, that his main goal in life is “to flip Crouchy” even if that would require a 6ft 7in grill.

“We need to turn him and make Crouchy realise how fantastic BBQ food and cooking is,” says Stark. Challenge accepted. 

It is a serious, sort of, wider point. While the UK BBQ scene is growing by the day as novices become enthusiasts and enthusiasts strive for pitmaster status, there is still a rump of the British population who don’t get it, still trapped in the dark ages of their youth – memories, fond but hardly epicurean, of dad cremating a sausage in the rain.

“Those are often the best memories, the happiest ones. The grilling might not have been the greatest, but it was a trigger for me – the joy of cooking outside whatever the weather.”

An education piece – not in a preachy way – sits alongside the inspiration and entertainment values of BBQ and Stark is determined to be in the vanguard of the revolution.

I guess you get the same reaction if you mention trains to somebody – a geek presumably – who has every copy of The Railway Magazine. But I am continually astonished by the passion that BBQ evokes in its supporters. That expletive you just heard offstage was Crouchy again.

Stark and I meet for a chat in one of those coffee chains that have the likes of ‘no beef and red onion focaccia’ on their limited food counters. 



We do ask ourselves why we are sipping flat whites rather than lunching in some east London firehouse or Korean BBQ joint. 

Nothing wrong with vegetarian fare and charred veggies on the grill are a delight, but ‘succulent soya beef style strips’? No thank you.

I had questions for Stark about what it was like having a beer and a football chat with Aston Villa fan Prince William, now the Prince of Wales. How cool was it to meet Stormzy on your Breakfast show? The nerve to ask actress Mila Kunis on a date – she said yes.

But no, Stark would much prefer a YouTube video of a bearded American in a baseball cap cooking insane short ribs in the Deep South.

“I’m an absolute BBQ fanboy. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to meet many global superstars, but my tribe is barbecue.”

It is his hobby too. Realising he will never play guitar other than badly and that his best football days (cue Peter Crouch laughter offstage) are behind him, BBQ is his sport and with a wife and two young children at home in Berkshire so much more family friendly than golf. You’re feeding them at the same time while indulging your passion – and with a beer too.

Stark, also a popular DJ, doesn’t just rub shoulders with stars of music, sport and film, he rubs shoulders of pork and lamb with them. 

“A lot message me on social media, with proud pictures of their BBQ cooking. I also love how the grill heroes out there share their knowledge and encourage you. It is a very collaborative community and so much fun to be a part of.”

Stark is gathering quite an armoury, including a Kamado Joe in a Kamado Space island, a Weber Summit, a Traeger smoker and a Gozney Dome, complete with his trusty MEATER and Thermapen for temperature control.

“I have pitmaster aspirations, but there is a long way to go. What I am learning all the time is how much better all types of food taste on the barbecue – cabbage on the coals, for instance, is awesome.”

Stark has written a book called Eat, Sleep, Zoom, Reheat, designed to help university students cook during the pandemic. Lockdown digs might not have been conducive to live-fire cooking, but BBQ is winning the youth vote too.

Like many he is on a quest for the perfect 18-hour brisket, but it is the journey not the destination and a realisation that BBQ cooking is something you can enjoy – and get better at – your whole life.

Stark, who spent 10 years at the BBC on Radio One and Radio Five Live, also hosts a podcast with chef Tom Kerridge called The Pirate Ship, talking food and drink, sharing culinary adventures.

“And yes we talk a lot of BBQ!”

We are back where we started and the voice of a former England, Liverpool, Tottenham, Stoke City (and a few more) striker mocking the obsession of Stark, a passionate Watford fan, a team Crouch didn’t play for.

Watch this space. That Peter Crouch BBQ, perhaps where Stark turns him into a cook, a king, a nerd, a geek, or any other four-letter word you can think of. Maybe it is time to get those T-shirts printed after all.


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