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Festival Cooking by the Numbers: The Smoke Daddy

When it comes to cooking for Chicago's many festivals, The Smoke Daddy's Josh Rutherford is on top of it. The BBQ favorite was just at the Taste of Chicago, will be at Wicker Park Festival this weekend and will be at Lollapalooza next weekend. Serving food to that many people takes careful, smart planning.

"We take a look at the history we have had for the last few years and optimistically do a 10 percent increase. I then break all the numbers down and start smoking," Rutherford says.

When it comes to Lollapalooza, he says that he never has a problem staffing because people want to go see their favorite bands for free. But he tries to keep the staff limited to management interns, as well as a few friends and family, maxing out the staff at 25 "to sell the most in the least amount of time." Rutherford says that the longest that anyone has ever stood in a Smoke Daddy line has been two minutes. "I time people randomly throughout the day."

Given the many choices for food at Lollapalooza in particular, "we want to stand out as fast and amazing," he says. He also keeps his head "on a swivel", watching what other vendors put on their menus, how they set up their booths, how many staffers they have in order to tweak and streamline his setup to be more efficient. Smoke Daddy can turn out almost 500 sandwiches an hour at peak times, allowing "us to minimize lines, get people fed and back to shows."

Below are the numbers Rutherford provided on what they served at the Taste of Chicago and plan on serving at Lollapalooza.

Taste of Chicago:

Pork: 4,144 pounds
Chicken: 1,512 pounds
BBQ Sauce: 156 gallons
Mojo Rub: 87 pounds


Pork: 2,750 pounds
Chicken: 1,500 pounds
BBQ Sauce: 124 gallons
Mojo Rub: 53 pounds
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The Smoke Daddy

1804 W Division St., Chicago, IL