Monday, July 27, 2015


Sounding more like a kettle drum, Rob Buttler's voice is deep, booming and commanding from years working as an executive chef in some of Toronto's toniest private clubs. He left the Granite and Cricket club kitchens behind in 2009 for a style of food, life and atmosphere that is less rarified and closer to people's hearts.

A Toronto native, Rob owns and operates a successful barbecue restaurant called Horn Dawgs Smokin BBQ ( ). Though they have a location next to the Liverpool GO Station (perfect for commuter pick-up before heading home for dinner), we caught up with him at a huge BBQ rib festival in Gravenhurst, Ontario.

It is no easy feat to set up shop at an event, but they have it down to a science. It will take just two hours to knock down the facade, clean the racks and pack the rolling kitchen into the transport truck be back on the road with his five staff. The setup easily attracts a continual line-up of hungry people as the "ribbers" cook, dress and serve between 500 and 1,000 pounds of pulled pork, ribs and chicken over a weekend. We sampled the ribs for which he is widely known and awarded, and can say with bbq sauce-covered fingers, that the pork literally falls of the bone in perfectly cooked savoury goodness!

Winning over 200 awards, among them, Best Sauce and Best Ribs, Rob and his traveling ribbers hit the road anywhere within a 3-4 hour radius of Toronto, catering and competing with other ribbers. "Anything from black tie to downright dirty BBQ," Rob heartily laughs, as he speaks about his catering business. His executive chef experience and his warmth of personality are what keeps people loving him and his ribs, perfect for fun formal occasions and a frequent visitor to large summer camps such as Camp New Moon in Muskoka.

ROB FUN FACT: While standing out near the clubhouse of a golf course where he once worked, he watched Canadian golfer, Stephen Ames line up for final shot at the 18th hole. Rob turned to a club member, "Man, I wish I could play golf like that," he said to the gentleman at the club.

The member patted Rob on the back and simply said, "Rob, you know what, you can't play golf like that! But I bet he can't cook a steak to save his life."


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