In 2007, The Post’s Tom Sietsema awarded the restaurant three stars. In his last food piece before he died in 2006, the legendary New York Times writer and gourmand R.W. “Johnny” Apple Jr. wrote that the chef “works magic” with the inn’s Australia-meets-Asia-meets-Maryland menu.
Roasted kangaroo tenderloin, fried Chesapeake oysters and green Thai bouillabaisse existed, somehow harmoniously, on the roster of dishes — probably due to Evans’s training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., followed by an eight-year stint at an Asian restaurant in Australia.
Evans’s acclaim attracted the likes of top toques such as Eric Ziebold, Roberto Donna, Robert Wiedmaier and Cathal Armstrong to cook a dinner as part of his 2006 Guest Chef series.
But two years later, personal matters led Evans to close the inn; he sold it the next year. He moved to his current location and opened a Thai restaurant. “It was completely open, like a night-market stall,” he says, referring to stands in Southeast Asia. “That was my baby. It didn’t work, though.”
His woes were compounded by the recession. “I was on the ropes, financially,” he says. “I went to my biggest investor, my mom. You toe the line when you go to your mom. And I said, ‘I could try barbecue,’ and she said, ‘All right, give it a try.’ ”
Born in New York City and raised in Ohio and New Hampshire, Evans did not grow up around barbecue. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1989 with a degree in religious studies (specializing in Zen Buddhism). He worked as a line cook at a Baltimore restaurant before attending the CIA. After graduation, he was sponsored to cook in Australia. He thought he would be there a year. He ended up staying for eight.
But Evans’s interest in barbecue had grown steadily since 2004, when he served as a judge at the prestigious Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tenn.
“I don’t know why they asked me,” he says. “But it changed my perspective completely. Chefs think barbecue is redneck food and it’s beneath them. That’s how I used to think.”
When he returned from what is simply known as the Jack, Evans began experimenting with smoking meats and held backyard competitions. In 2008, he formed Walk the Swine, a competition team.
Evans had caught the barbecue bug. When the Thai restaurant didn’t work out, he saw barbecue not only as a viable business option but also as something to fulfill his relatively newfound love affair with the cuisine.