Tyler Sailsbery learns how to prepare barbecue on a smoker from the master chef Rodney during a stop at Scott’s BBQ in South Carolina.

Black Sheep owner and staff hit the road to learn the barbecue trade

By Dave Fidlin


Several staffers at Whitewater’s new Black Sheep restaurant recently embarked on a road trip. But it was far more about business than pleasure.

Tyler Sailsbery, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate, is a chef and entrepreneur who opened the eatery nearly a year ago at the site of the former Dan’s Meat Market, 210 W. Whitewater St., in the city’s downtown area.

Sailsbery, who earned a degree from UW-Whitewater in 2010, describes the restaurant as “edgy” with a variety of offerings – including lamb ravioli – that are not readily found elsewhere.

In an effort to expand his already specialized menu even further, Sailsbery and several restaurant staffers embarked on a journey through numerous southern and Midwestern states to gain first-hand knowledge of different barbecuing concepts.

The entire pilgrimage took place during the first two weeks of January and is documented extensively on a website, www.porkamerica.com.

During the journey, stops were made at restaurants and other related establishments in numerous states, including Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

“Barbecue has always been a concept that’s intrigued me, and that’s why we did this,” Sailsbery said. “It was a vacation, but it was a food-related vacation. There was no way I was going to shut down my restaurant without doing something that would be business related.”

During the 14-day journey, Sailsbery and his travel mates traversed across an estimated 6,000 miles. The trip was described by Sailsbery as “slightly impromptu.” The team slept in a van many of the nights.

“We wanted to see what made barbecue different from one place to the next,” Sailsbery said. “We learned about some of the more authentic techniques.”

Sara Smith was among the people who accompanied Sailsbery.

“This was a research tour,” she said. “It turned out to be quite an interesting trip.”

Throughout the journey, Sailsbery said he noticed barbecuing techniques differed from one region to the next. In many – but not all – instances, restaurateurs gave Sailsbery and his travel mates access to their kitchens to witness the techniques close-up.

“It was very nice,” Sailsbery said. “It was great going into the kitchen and checking out what they did.”

Sailsbery said he is featuring a rotating menu at the Black Sheep. Over time, barbecue items will be incorporated into the menu. A barbecue-themed reception was held at the restaurant last month to commemorate the recently acquired knowledge.

The Black Sheep employs about 25 people, some of whom are UW-Whitewater students.

Owning a restaurant is Sailsbery’s second foray into entrepreneurship. His first business, NoMoreDorms.com, is an online listing of off-campus student housing from landlords in Whitewater and Madison.

Sailsbery said much of the start-up capital that went into the Black Sheep was raised from the success of NoMoreDorms.com.

As a student, Sailsbery was a winner in the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization’s business plan competition.


On the web

The Black Sheep’s full menu is available online at www.eatatblacksheep.com.

Black Sheep owner Tyler Sailsbery (from right) and staffers Sarah Smith and Maggie Laugher traveled an estimated 6,000 miles to learn tricks of the trade from some of the county’s finest barbecue-centeric eateries, such as Walls BBQ in Savannah, Ga.






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