Pierre Boutros always liked math and science, so it makes sense that he would cook.
“To me, cooking is chemistry,” said Boutros, who owns the Bayou Smokehouse, which opened Dec. 19 in the former Russell’s Ribs. “It’s a science. And this is my lab.”
Russell's Ribs closed last summer after 22 years, and Boutros, 36, was looking for space. He owned the Bayou Smokehouse in Westerly, R.I. and was forced to move after his landlord decided it wanted the space.
He has training in the trades, and he worked for five months to renovate the building himself, inside and out. “I worked hard, boy,” he said. “There wasn’t a square inch I didn’t touch.”
The smokehouse at 214 Route 12 sells chili, gumbo, grinders and platters, but its most popular items are pulled pork and “jerk chicken”, a spicy Caribbean-style barbecue.
The kitchen has no microwave, and that’s deliberate. Boutros cooks over a fire.
“I cook for people the way I like to eat,” he said. “It’s not always perfect, but you learn and you grow and your palate becomes more advanced.”
Dana Weinstein, who waits tables, cooks and does whatever else the place needs, said she’d eat more when she was there, but she knows she shouldn’t.
“The cornbread is out of this world,” she said.
Boutros started in restaurants at age 12, washing dishes in his uncle’s place which has since closed; his parents own a pizza place in Exeter, R.I., which remains open.
In his early 20s, Boutros worked in construction, went to trade school and spent a several years managing a furniture warehouse.
“But it was very boring to me,” he said. “I always went back to food.”
He returned to college in his 30s to finish an associate’s degree from the Community College of Rhode Island in business and general studies.
He opened the first Bayou Smokehouse at age 32. It was tough getting established he said, but the food and the business ultimately did well. He believes the same will happen in Groton.
“This is the beginning and I’m just building it,” he said, adding that it doesn’t feel like work to him.
“I do this 12 hours a day, six days a week, and I don’t even feel it," he said. "It’s like a hobby for me. I love it.”