Avellino Leland

Leland Avellino

Avellino Family Barbecue

Biography

20+ years ago, I was a chef in mostly fine dining restaurants in lower Fairfield County and New York City. In 2004, a friend of mine became the Executive Chef at a barbecue joint in Westport and let me poke around in his kitchen. That was my first introduction to barbecue and I immediately fell... READ MORE

20+ years ago, I was a chef in mostly fine dining restaurants in lower Fairfield County and New York City. In 2004, a friend of mine became the Executive Chef at a barbecue joint in Westport and let me poke around in his kitchen. That was my first introduction to barbecue and I immediately fell in love. Over the next bunch of years, I developed a few restaurant concepts, including another barbecue-focused concept, and traveled to explore the country’s most beloved barbecue in Kansas City, Texas, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

In a series of coincidences that included a serendipitous meeting at a concert at Roseland Ballroom, I connected with Dinosaur BBQ’s then-Chef and Pit Boss Jeff “Cooter” Coon. I was hired for the opening of the Stamford location and rose through the ranks from there. My relationship with Cooter would turn out to be much too short — he passed away a short time after I started. But he passed along some of his grit and passion to me as he taught me about barbecue, and after a year of running the pits in Stamford, I was promoted to Corporate Executive Chef and Pit Boss. In this role I spearheaded all things culinary, including menu development, new location openings in Chicago and Baltimore, procurement, and national media. I also had the privilege to cook and connect with barbecue greats and chefs from around the country at events like the Super Bowl, Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in Madison Square Park, Chicago’s Windy City Smokeout, NYC and Miami Wine & Food Festivals, and more. My journey eventually led me “home” to be the local owner of the Stamford Dino location. Throughout my time at Dinosaur BBQ, I was blessed to work with and learn from founder John Stage and the many amazing pit bosses across the Dinosaur family.

As COVID surged in early 2020, John and I made the difficult decision to close the Stamford Dinosaur location and I decided not to take a leadership position at Dino Harlem as NYC infection rates skyrocketed. At the time, it felt like a leap into a lot of uncertainty, but I quickly realized that it was time to feed my people in a new way.

After a few weeks of weighing the COVID-associated risks around traveling down South to buy a smoker, one popped up for sale just a few miles from home. I couldn’t help but think it was meant to be. In late June, we told a few friends about our new venture and put out a very small menu. My wife and I put our friends’ orders together those first few weeks with our then-three-year-old, Ella, running around our driveway greeting people and our 22-month-old, June, on our hip. Word spread steadily and we saw new faces every week. In November, we moved our operation to a commercial kitchen as the growth continued. It’s been amazing to go from 90 degree summer days with some friends to the line of people we had trudging through the snow on Super Bowl Sunday.

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Backyard BBQ presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats hosted by Dario Cecchini and Andrew Zimmern

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Sun, Oct 16

4:00 PM

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