“Just like a steak. If you have to ask for A1, then your steak isn’t cooked correctly. Sauce just complements the dry rub, but the meat stands alone. Sauce is added to add to the flavor, not to cover it up,” said England.
BBQ Blessings began as a ministry England organized to draw young men to the church services at St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church in Portland. A barbecue competition grew out of the ministry because many of the kids said they knew someone who made the best barbecue wings.
The competition went on for five years. Adidas and Nike provided gifts to support the ministry. In addition, a professional barbecue guy joined the competition.
“I won’t say his name,” said England, “because I beat him.”
During the pandemic, England, a security guard for the Trail Blazers, and his wife, Jenny England, a bus driver for Vancouver Public Schools, had time on their hands. When kids weren’t getting fed at school, the couple offered free lunches.
“I don’t have a lot. I don’t have anything,” said Kris England, “so I gave kids sandwiches.” BBQ Blessings also provided meals to Kaiser Permanente workers through donations.
BBQ Blessings continued to grow as the pandemic dragged on. People who tried England’s food told their friends and family, and customers kept coming. On his day off, England brought some of his barbecue to his Trail Blazer co-workers. Through that connection, he got a booth at Veterans Memorial Coliseum to sell food during Winterhawks games.
As business increased, the Englands decided to find a food truck, and Kris England called Greg Williams to rent his food truck.
“Bring me some food, let’s see what you got,” said Williams. After Williams tried England’s barbecue, a partnership was born.
At the same time, England heard that Christine’s was closing on Jan. 1. He decided to go into business with Greg and Judy Williams, who leased him the food truck. The Englands and the Williams bought the building that formerly housed Christine’s Restaurant. They plan on serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Judy Williams, who earned a culinary degree from Clark College, is responsible for the breakfast menu. Her morning offerings will include classics like pancakes and eggs as well fancier fare like eggs Benedict. For lunch, wraps made with Kris England’s barbecued meats will be served along with other dishes to be determined.
Kris England wants to fill the dinner menu with his barbecue as well as country fare like fried chicken, oxtails, cornbread, and black-eyed peas as well as desserts like red velvet cake inspired by family recipes from Texas and Mississippi.
England’s barbecue may be his own, but his cooking is strongly influenced by his mother, Charlotte England. Jenny England also learned to cook from her mother-in-law and will be making side dishes such as cornbread and black-eyed peas for the restaurant.
These new owners hope to open BBQ Blessings in April. Until then, their food truck will be parked outside the restaurant serving Kris England’s barbecue ribs and chopped briskets with a variety of sides and desserts, including Jackson-style baked beans, collard greens and red velvet cake. The truck will serve food for takeout from noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday until the restaurant opens for regular service.