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Pit Boss Ariel Chapel —Photo by Carol W. Maybach

Q&A: Ariel Chapel, Burt’s Smokehouse BBQ’s 19-Year-Old Pit Boss

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As a barbecue veteran with decades of experience, septuagenarian Burt Levy is undoubtedly the inspiration behind the month-old Burt’s Smokehouse BBQ in Centennial. But his 19-year-old granddaughter, Ariel Chapel, is the star of the show. Learning the art of barbecue from her grandfather at the tender age of eight, Chapel knows the slow-cooking process inside and out. On a recent visit to the spot, we chatted with Chapel about her role as pit boss.

5280: Tell us about life as a teenage pit boss. Do you feel ready for the responsibility?

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Chapel: I am more than ready; I was meant to do this. My knowledge about barbecue has been handed down to me through three generations of experience. Years ago, my grandpa moved from New York to join my grandma in Colorado, and he became mesmerized by everything Western. He instantly dove right into everything he could find about barbecuing meats. He worked on learning the process and developing his own special recipes by combining the best of Texan-style beef and barbecue sauces with the pork and sauce recipes from St. Louis. His own style shows up on the menu in brisket, ribs, pork, beef, and chicken that are slow-smoked over white oak. His sauce isn’t too tomato-y and has just enough acidity from the apple cider vinegar. He taught my dad, Evan Rosenberg, in his own kitchen, and together they taught me when I was only eight years old. I already have 11 years of experience with the pit.

Are you ready, now, to take over the family business?

My dad is the kitchen manager and my mom, Dana Rosenberg, is the general manager in charge of the front-of-the-house. I’m in charge of the all of the cooking in our custom-built pit. Together we make a great team. When they’re not here, I run everything at the restaurant, in addition to helping develop the recipes. I knew I was ready when, after graduating from Arapahoe High School and starting college in Greeley, it hit me that I could be paid to learn how to run a business instead of paying tuition. Eventually, I’d like to run this place myself. But I’ll be patient and live by my family’s motto: “You can’t rush good barbecue.”

7470 S. University Blvd., A-1, Centennial, 303-770-2875

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