BRILLIANT -Not everyone can grill half of a broiler chicken to a tender, carmelized and golden brown, let alone prepare enough for a crowd of more 200 people.
Jim Degenhardt, 74, was the barbecue chef for the Yvonne Fair benefit held earlier this month. But he has prepared grilled chicken for so many groups that it has become a routine for him.
"I have cooked for the Smithfield Apple Festival, golf scrambles, bachelor parties and benefits. I'll cook anywhere I am wanted. The Dillonvale Fire Department showed me how to cook chickens in a rotisserie in pit on the ground some time ago and from there I built a grill on wheels that can be hauled around," he said.
GRILLIN’ MAN — It’s the season for grilling, and Jim Degenhardt recently was busy preparing more than 200 chicken halves for the Yvonne Fair benefit. He is a “seasoned griller” who stands over a large homemade grill that cooks many chickens at a time. - Esther McCoy
"The grill is made from a large oil tank and an axle from a Plymouth mini-van and only cost $7 to make. I did have to buy a hitch, though. You can fill both sides of the grill with all the rib eye steaks the cooker can how hold and in 4 minutes on each side, they are done. I have cooked deer quarters, too," he explained
"I would get a rub from Kanoski's in Adena, it was $10 per bag and it was great. Then he died and took the recipe with him. I now use a dry rub and have a secret mixture that I spray on after the meat starts browning," said the chef, who been cooking since 1967.
At one time Degenhardt prepared 150 whole chickens on a Friday night and 400 the following Saturday. They were cooked and sold whole and were good sellers, he said.
"I have had shoulder reconstruction, a titanium knee and a total hip replacement only to have it redone five days later because of a cracked bone. I was in rehab and worked on an exercise program but barbecuing is the best therapy for me. The more I work, the better I feel. I went from a wheel chair, to a walker, to a cane. I now ride an exercise bike and a two-wheeler. It makes my knee feel better," he said.
Degenhardt also is a cancer survivor.
"My goal is to get my knee back to 75 to 80 percent and then go elk hunting and fishing with my son in Colorado," he said with a smile.
He has been the Brilliant fire chief, mayor and fire prevention officer in the past 30 years, along with serving with the Smithfield Fire Department and in village government.
"I have worked with Yvonne Fair at the fire department and she is unbelievable, although she is fighting stage 4 melanoma. At one fire, she was working on the side of a hill with a hose and she came back down and put everything away. I was amazed," he said, in talking about Fair, a firefighter, who the department was helping to raise funds to use toward medical expenses. Fair has been with the Brilliant fire department since her teens, except for a stint in the Air Force. She continues to work and inspire everyone, according to Degenhardt.
"There are days when I get up feeling bad, but then I think of Yvonne and her problems, I know that my troubles are quite small," he said.