Pit Master Burt Bakman Opens His First SLAB Barbeque in the Valley

Texas-style & sure to titillate.

Hanging out with Burt Bakman feels like you’re hobnobbing with the mayor of the LA food scene. Like any good politician, he’s social, and seemingly everywhere all at once, listening to constituents, and in Burt’s case, cooking for them. He’s also armed with a deep knowledge of his city, from where to go for top shawarma to what restaurants are closing soon, who might move in next, and all the drama in between. And he’s especially well versed in barbecue. 

Burt also happens to be a real estate broker with the Valley-based Chernov Team, but the the pit master keeps a strong foot in the culinary world. He opened the original Slab barbecue in 2018 on West 3rd Street in LA, serving what he describes as the holy trinity of Central Texas barbecue: brisket, ribs, sausage and pulled pork. Also on the menu: sides like collard greens and mac ‘n’ cheese, and an irresistible sandwich called “The Oooh,” which is piled with chopped brisket, onion, cilantro and barbecue sauce on a brioche bun. The success of the first Slab has fueled others; an outpost at the new Topanga Social food court in Woodland Hills is scheduled to open this summer, and plans are in the making for locations in Pasadena and North Hollywood. 

“Barbecue is a state of mind. People sit in Slab, slow down, and listen to classic rock while they eat. Barbecue gets your hands a little saucy, so you’re not on your phone. You’re just present, which is incredible.”

Burt’s interest in barbecue ignited in 2016 during a trip to Central Texas. It wasn’t just the incredible tastes and smells of the barbecue; it was the entire scene. He wanted to know what it felt like to be the guy behind the grill, the sultan of the smoker. Since he couldn’t shake his new dream, he walked toward it.


  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup fermented honey (buy online or make: mix one cup of honey with 6 peeled cloves of garlic; cover and store away for 2 weeks; strain)
  • ⅓ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses 
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp 16-mesh black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk all ingredients together; simmer and reduce for 10–15 minutes until it thickens up a bit. In addition to using on proteins, Burt says his sauce is great mixed into marinades and vinaigrettes and even whisked into eggs before scrambling. 

Back in Studio City, where he lives with his wife and three daughters, Burt started smoking two briskets at a time in a Big Green Egg grill/smoker in his backyard. Then he’d share with friends and neighbors.

“We had no name at this point,” Burt shared with me over coffee in Tujunga Village. “I was just making barbecue, and people were into it.”

Things started to heat up when he delivered some of his coveted barbecue to John Terzian and Brian Toll, managing partners at the LA-based hospitality company H. Wood Group. After a few bites, they suggested a joint barbecue venture. 

“That’s when I bought my smoker,” Burt says. “I sent $4,000 via PayPal to a complete stranger in Joshua, Texas, and it was delivered the next night.”

The rest is part of Valley barbecue lore. Burt started making nine briskets at a time in his giant backyard smoker. He’d buy and prep meat on Thursday, cook all day Friday, and then hand it out Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. But you couldn’t just show up. People had to DM Burt on social media, and he’d send his address to the number of people he could serve. Topo Chico sparkling water and a donation box were the only other accoutrements at what he dubbed Trudy’s Backyard Barbecue, cheekily named for a buddy’s mother who used to make delicious brisket sandwiches.

With three more shops on the horizon, and busier than ever, Burt says he has the same energy and passion as when he started seven years ago. He hopes customers show up, order, and get their hands messy.

“Barbecue is a state of mind. People sit in Slab, slow down, and listen to classic rock while they eat. Barbecue gets your hands a little saucy, so you’re not on your phone. You’re just present, which is incredible.” 




Experiment—And Keep At It

“Protein is expensive, so people don’t want to play around too much. I get it, but you have to fail forward.” 

Get to Know Your Grill

Cook all kinds of things on it, and try the classic cookie dough trick: lay a ball of dough on parchment paper and place it on the grill to see where your hot spots are cold zones are—because grilling is all about managing your heat.”

Prep Meat Properly 

“Don’t oversalt your meat, and don’t salt too early. I suggest 30 minutes before grilling. And I don’t necessarily do the bring-to-room-temperature thing. If I cook a steak, beginning when the temperature is at 40° rather than at 70, that’s 30 more degrees I get to build flavor.”