It was in 2002 that Martin Goffin fell in love with Southern-style BBQ on a trip to the US to visit his (now) wife Melissa. The couple travelled from Florida to Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee – visiting family, experiencing Southern hospitality and igniting in Martin a passion for BBQ that became an obsession and led him to his current title – Cofounder and “Pit Boss” – of Red Gum BBQ on the Mornington Peninsula.
Martin and Melissa opened the Red Hill restaurant in January 2017, a BBQ and craft beer joint, traditional in Southern US-style from wooden bench communal tables, meat served by weight on share trays and its location behind a main road gas station. Since opening its doors, and introducing the ‘low and slow’ cooking style to the Victorian wine region, Red Gum BBQ has become Australia’s first B-corporation certified restaurant and the largest barbeque restaurant in the country.
In 2016, in preparation for the restaurant launch, Martin completed a stint at Southern Living’s ‘Best BBQ Joint in the South’, Southern Soul BBQ on St Simons Island, Georgia for insights into scaling their existing business before heading back to Australia to open Red Gum BBQ in Red Hill.
But it was back in Australia in the years that followed that first visit that the couple’s tiny backyard in St Kilda became Martin’s test kitchen for the perfect ribs and BBQ sauce and where he shared these with grateful friends. And in 2012, while on paternity leave from his local government job, almost 10 years after his first, impressionable bite of pulled pork in Melissa’s hometown of Miami, that Martin decided that his love BBQ and sharing with friend and family was his future.
And it was across those next years, on the road and at pop-ups across the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne, that Martin served low and slow US-style BBQ food from a 3m x 3m marquee and a trailer with a Texas offset smoker, earning his stripes as a Pitmaster and a following of loyal Red Gum BBQ devotees who went where he did and showed up when the couple finally opened their giant roller doors and lit the fires at their new home in Red Hill, Victoria.
A celebration of locality, the menu Martin has put together connects authentic Southern-style food and processes with its Australian locale – showcasing local and ethical farmers, wineries and breweries. The wood that fuels his custom, offset smokers – affectionately named ‘Dolly, Willie & Patsy’ – is locally grown Red Gum rather than the hickory and mesquite you’ll find in the United States. All these elements, in addition to the restaurant’s sustainable practices, are what have earned the restaurant’s B-corp certification.
Martin’s passion for food, relentless hard work and desire for excellence, alongside Melissa, has made Red Gum BBQ a local icon and has secured Martin’s status as one of the forefathers of this now booming BBQ food scene.
These days Martin continues to share his knowledge through Pitmaster, Masterclasses at the Red Hill venue, through his Youtube channel and at speaking engagements across BBQ and food events. Martin was recently invited to attend a BBQ festival in the US where he smoked alongside a group of BBQ’s most revered Pitmasters. Flame, flavour and family are the happy constants in the life of this Pit Boss, who is living his dream and planning for a future that’s full of smoke.
See more of Martin’s journey in Southern Living Magazine’s recent profile on the business: https://www.southernliving.com/bbq/red-gum-bbq-australia