What difference can 10 years make? Just ask Brookfield resident Craig Goldwyn. Check that, ask Brookfield resident Meathead Goldwyn because he doesn’t answer to Craig anymore.
In 2005, when the Landmark profiled “Brookfield’s renaissance man,” Goldwyn was focusing on computer-manipulated photography after years as a writer — he was a regular wine critic for the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post and ran a food-and-drink channel on AOL.
Ten years later, he is a brand — Meathead — who still operates a barbecue/grilling website, AmazingRibs.com, which he sold in January for an undisclosed sum to South Holland-based Rupari Food Services.
“The price is confidential, but let’s just say that it made up for my many entrepreneurial failures,” said the 66-year-old Goldwyn.
AmazingRibs.com, he said, “is one of the top 20 food websites in the country; that includes everything from the Wienermobile to the Food Network.
“And we’re the No. 1 barbecue site by a million miles.”
With the beginning of summer and, along with it, prime grilling season, Goldwyn has been very busy of late. In late May, he was the subject of a feature article by Bloomberg Business writer Bryan Gruley, who noted that, according to Goldwyn, AmazingRibs.com took in $500,000 in 2014 between sales of subscriptions to an interactive community group called the Pitmaster Club, online ads and fees from retailers, whose products are rated.
Goldwyn says AmzaingRibs.com drew 3.5 million page views in May. How does he drive that kind of traffic?
“The best thing I can come up with is that we have really good content, so when people start looking for recipes, we’re number one or two on Google,” Goldwyn said.
It doesn’t hurt that anyone looking up a recipe for “amazing” ribs will be sure to immediately run into Goldwyn’s website.
On June 5, Goldwyn was featured on NPR’s weekly radio segment Science Friday, talking about what he believes to be the absurdity of beer-can chicken and his insistence on science-informed grilling.
“I’m not a scientist, but I’ve developed a real interest in food science,” said Goldwyn, noting that he has on retainer a physicist, a meat scientist and a food safety expert. “We actually do research and experiments.”
Goldwyn’s website features recipes and articles that are the result of all that research. While the name of the site might give the impression that it is devoted to ribs — and to be sure, you can find a recipe for “Last Meal Ribs” — there are sections for beef, poultry, seafood, lamb, burgers, even pizza.
He doesn’t develop all of the recipes on his own. For the past year he’s employed Ryan Udvett as a full-time chef to work in his “test kitchen” inside his Prairie Avenue bungalow.
The two are working on new recipes for a book, which Goldwyn believes will hit the shelves sometime in the spring of 2016 called Meathead: The Science of BBQ & Grilling, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Both Goldwyn and Ryan were hard at work in the kitchen early last week in preparation for a video shoot, done on June 3 in Goldwyn’s backyard.
A production crew from Chicago and Boston was in town last week to shoot the first three of what will eventually be 13 videos on barbecuing. Goldwyn got the project underwritten by Kingsford, the charcoal company, which plans to roll out the videos monthly.
The first two — one on charcoal, wood and smoke and the other on how to barbecue ribs — will be released on the web on June 26, just in time for the July 4 holiday. They’ll be available on AmazingRibs.com and on the Kingsford website, he said.
Goldwyn mans the grill in the videos, which also feature Jenny Johnson, a Boston TV personality, as co-host.
“She’s a pro who was really able to coach me through it,” said Goldwyn, who was making his first attempt at learning lines and playing for the cameras.
But that’s where Goldwyn finds himself a decade after building AmazingRibs.com as a hobby site about ribs.
“The barbecue thing just kind of caught on,” he said. “I’m the rare case of the dream that really came true.”