While some pitmasters are just using Kosher salt for their brisket, here’s one homegrown grill guru who is taking that with more than a grain of salt. Eli Goldman took his frustration with the 2020 pandemic to a whole new level by creating BBQ delicacies for an isolated suburban part of New York and turning it into a charity benefit that helps feed hungry folks in Queens.
Who is Eli Goldman?
You’ve heard a lot about master grill chefs and BBQ heroes before but how often do you hear of a no-name Jewish guy from Astoria? Well, as it turns out, there is more to this story than meets the eye. Eli Goldman may not be the next Aaron Franklin or Myron Mixon, although he does share a similar passion for understanding the sweat and dedication that goes into tapping a hunger for tasty barbecued food.
As unlikely as it sounds, Eli was just as frustrated by the immediate lockdowns when the 2020 pandemic hit the streets all across the 7 boroughs. But he didn’t start out with barbecue in the very beginning. He originally began learning the craft of fundraising while he was a member of the California-based AmeriCorps. While this is considered the domestic Peace Corps in California, Eli finished his 4-year volunteer membership and moved to Astoria in Queens.
His cousin, a native of Astoria, offered Eli a room to share and then moved there in 2015. Since then, he decided to put his fundraising skills to good use. At first, he began to bake bread from his apartment located in rural Astoria. It was a way to deal with the lockdown situation which kept most people working at home in the early days of the pandemic. In his spare time, he began to dabble by making charcoal BBQ from his balcony.
Eli originally began to offer BBQ from his balcony 2 or 3 days out of the week buying meat from a local butcher down the street from him. This included beef ribs and chicken wings but then escalated into bigger cuts of meat like brisket. It became more of a challenge to BBQ because the fire codes in Astoria did not allow him to BBQ on his balcony, so this soon moved to a small garden at the side of his apartment building.
It quickly became popular with locals looking for his unique style of BBQ and recently started a Pop-Up BBQ service that happens each weekend right next to his building in an open parking lot. In the tradition of Southern BBQ parties, where Eli has often claimed he is from, his association with several fundraising organizations shows he was raised on the East Coast. Despite this, Eli has a knack for fundraising and even formed his own non-profit company called Tikkun BBQ.
While his fundraising efforts are all based on donations, his typical BBQ events offer a menu with a suggested donation amount. As it turns out, charity benefits like these are raking in the profits which have raised over 100K since he started in April of 2020. Originally, he donated 100% of the proceeds to local charities, but with the demand for great BBQ, he still provides 50% to various charities including the Astoria Mutual Aid Network.
The rest of that profit goes into his operating budget to provide weekend BBQs that have garnished attention from CBS News, BBQ Newsletter, Eater.com, and even the online food network DeleciousFood.com since mid-2021. His message is relatively simple and talks about his plans to expand his Pop-Up BBQ concept. You can hear more about his efforts to bring food to local folks in Queens from the Astoria Mutual Aid Network blog video.