Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

The Business of Barbecue – OnCue Consulting

If you’re like most barbecue lovers you’ve often driven away from a BBQ Joint with the smoke-filled dreams of opening up your own joint or perhaps starting a BBQ catering business. It seems possible, but really, where do you start? There are a lot of really good BBQ classes across the country that teach you proper technique and even the best way to make your BBQ presentable to BBQ judges at competitions, but where do you go to find the actual nuts and bolts of running your own BBQ Joint and BBQ Business?

Enter OnCue Consulting, the brainchild of Amy Mills. You probably best know the father and daughter team of Mike and Amy from their BBQ Joints (17th Street Bar & Grill and Memphis Championship Barbecue of which they have (7) total), their James Beard nominated book Peace, Love, and Barbecue, and the many television appearances that BBQ legend Mike does.

Because of their wealth of experience, she created a company perfect for you to follow your BBQ passion. OnCue Consulting of course does consulting as well as seminars, master classes, and incredibly unique smoke tours given by Amy and Mike, along with special guests. They cover all things barbecue (restaurants, catering, festivals, & concessions) and even do personal on-site consulting services and seminars at their restaurant locations. They want you to learn from their vast experience in every operational aspect of the barbecue business (operations, HR, menu development, the art & science of cooking barbecue, catering, expansion, marketing, branding, etc.).

I wanted to get more insight into OnCue and their classes so the first person I spoke with after Amy Mills was Randy Twyford from Twyford Barbecue & Catering. Although he has known Mike and Amy for years (prior to them starting the courses), he couldn’t reiterate how much the classes really gave him a complete understanding of what goes into creating award winning barbecue in a restaurant setting. He explained that not only did he learn how to improve his BBQ skills (especially for a commercial kitchen environment which helped him in his own catering business), but he learned the real importance of branding himself and his BBQ business as a whole. You need only look at Randy’s website to realize he is using that knowledge to heart.

Another student, Mike Corcoran from Mikes BBQ (his joint is in Cork, Ireland) said, “What led me to OnCue and their course was the ability to study under Mike Mills, one of the premier pitmasters in the entire United States. My first exposure to OnCue and Amy Mills was at the Ole Hickory Factory in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. There Mike Mills and OnCue were demonstrating how Mike achieves such great results in his 17th Street Grill using Ole Hickory pits. They also gave many hints about how to be successful in competition BBQ.”

“Inspired by this workshop, I enrolled in the more intensive program offered by Mike and OnCue Consulting at Mike’s signature restaurant in Murphysboro, IL. I learned plenty over the course of the program and found the networking available with fellow ‘students’ extremely valuable. In addition to Mike’s barbecueing and restaurant secrets, we learned extensively by the copious and pertinent information that Amy and Mike shared with us, regarding building, marketing, and expanding your business. I learned more than ever about things like vending vs. catering.”

Dave Raymond, owner of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ, delved deeper. “I contacted Amy via email after reading Peace, Love and Barbecue. I was so blown away by the book that I had to tell them how much I loved it. At first it was Amy passing emails back and forth between her dad and I saying that he was a mutual fan of mine (once again I was blown away that Mike would even know who I was). I stayed in contact with Mike thru Amy, since Mike is “old school to the max” (he uses snail mail and not email). I think we have mutual respect for each other as business people, but the true measure of our friendship is based on caring for each other as people.”

I wondered how he got involved with OnCue. “I read the advertisement in the bullsheet (that’s what they call their marketing flyer) and really saw it as a chance to hang out with Mike at 17th Street. I signed up for their first class and had to back out. I checked with a couple of folks who went to the first class and they said it was well worth it so as I told Amy it was one of my big regrets of the year not making the first class and that I was determined to get to the second class. Which I did.”

I asked him how he feels it benefited him and what would he would like others to know about it. He said, “It was a blast as I got to spend time with arguably the top guy in barbecue and without question the most humble. I was able to listen and learn as well as talk and meet others during my session. There were folks there from 10 different states.”

“What I personally learned and how I benefited was how economical Mike Mills was in his business practices. We learned exactly how Mike cooks in his bbq joint and was very forthcoming, answering all questions with the greatest of ease and making us all feel special (a great gift Amy and Mike both share). I also saw the upstairs storage area where Mike’s brother has saved eveything they ever may have had (in neat sections by years going back decade after decade) very kool nothing like his stash of a couple hundred trophies (hardware as it is known to the competition cooks). Mike does not impress me as someone who likes to be handled and to a degree that needs to be done with barbecue folks. We all have lots of passion and other abilities, but our passion narrows our focus and barbecue takes up a lot of time, energy, and money. Lastly I will say that from the event I also purchased a buffalo chopper so i could make my pork like Mike Mills makes his.”

I asked Raymond if he had any additional tidbits of information that he could provide that you wouldn’t get from your run of the mill BBQ course. “Not from Mike, but from one of his managers to the question if one should order baby back or St. Louis ribs. I know St. Louis to be better than baby backs, but the manager said “you know how some times you feel like a strip steak and sometimes you feel like a ribeye. Both are excellent steaks and it’s the same with ribs. If you feel like a strip steak order baby back ribs and if you feel like a ribeye order St. Louis (more flavorful, meatier, more forgiving, and cheaper). I thought that was a great way to encourage our guests instead of telling them how much we know and how much they may not know about ribs”.

He continued. “When Mike invited me to his hometown he said promised if I came down he would “treat me so many ways I was bound to like one of them”. I still use that line, but I do give Mike credit for it.”

Per Amy, they’ve had had students from 28 states, numerous from Canada and Ireland, the UK, and New Zealand. In the end it is evident that Amy and the 17th Street crew not only give people the knowledge they need to move forward in a BBQ business, but they also have the unique ability to make everyone that they come into contact with their friends. What I heard most was that people cherished their relationship with them above anything they’ve received from the courses and consulting (although I couldn’t get them to stop raving about the classes). Even as a barbecue fan I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t want to attend any of their courses or travel with them on their Smoke Tour. It does seem like they are offering a once in a lifetime experience.

Here is the information for their classes which fill up quickly:

Legendary BBQ with “The Legend”
Mike Mills at the Ole Hickory Test Kitchen
333 N. Main Street, Cape Girardeau, Missouri
January 15, 2011
April 9, 2011
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Mike’s philosophy on smoke and spice Use three different models of Ole Hickory Pits Learn trade secrets
Hands-on cooking How to unleash the power of your pit
Limited to 24 people
$375 includes all supplies and meals. Call 800-223-9667 or email to register

Business of Barbecue
17th Street Warehouse, Murphysboro, Illinois
January 17 – 18, 2011
April 11– 12, 2011
Join Mike Mills, Amy Mills, & the 17th Street crew for two information-packed days
Work the pits with Mike • Branding, Marketing & PR
Who should attend: Barbecue professionals – owners, caterers, managers, pitmasters. Anyone thinking about getting into the business. Class size limited
$899 includes welcome reception on Sunday, two full days of instruction & all meals.
To register or for more information about any of our events, call 781-799-7202 or email

Here’s information for their world famous Smoke Tour:
Big Apple BBQ Smoke Tour
New York City – March 14-15, 2011
To register or for more information about any of our events, call 781-799-7202 or email

Master Classes Single-subject events offering an intense learning experience.
January 20 – 21, 2011
April 14-15, 2011
To register or for more information about any of our events, call 781-799-7202 or email

Follow them on twitter here
Follow them on facebook here
Check out their youtube channel here

Posted in BBQ Joints,Pitmasters on by kevin - Comments (4)


  1. Great piece.

    Comment by Devon — November 29, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  2. When is your next Master class? I want to attend.

    Comment by Kelly Robinson — January 13, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  3. When are your next classes?



    Comment by david fink — March 12, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  4. When will your next “business of barbecue” class be held? Sign me up!

    Comment by Vince — March 19, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

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