Secret in the sauce

Arnold builds reputation on barbecue


Warren Arnold found his way into the big world of barbecue living in Clayton, New Mexico, in 1999. Since then, he has allowed his homemade sauces to lead the way from owning restaurants to traveling, ministry and markets. Throughout the successes and trials, his condiments evolved into the noteworthy sauces they are today.

“At the time I started, I was doing handyman work for a guy who owned a hotel and the restaurant with it,” said Warren, now a resident of Sauk Rapids. “He asked if I had ever thought about owning a restaurant and what kind it would be if I could.”

Warren had not yet tested his skills on making brisket.

“Then, my daughter and I ended up helping out a family friend who had a trailer and smoker at a festival,” Warren said. “My daughter asked me, ‘Why don’t you open a restaurant?’”

So became Golden Days Barbecue, which was accompanied by  an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. After a successful start with Warren’s newfound love for the food world, 9/11 happened.

“I had just rented a big billboard sign and business was continuously growing,” Warren said.

“It was a great tourist attraction being the gateway to Colorado and Texas, but then, (after 9/11) the tourists stopped traveling and our business crashed.”

It was a sad ending to his great beginning, yet without it, Warren may have not created his first barbecue sauce, now properly titled Warren’s Famous BBQ Sauce.

“That was my original, which evolved into my Famous sauce,” Warren said. “Over the years, I have been eliminating ingredients and trying others.”

After eliminating over six ingredients, Warren is satisfied with the way his sauce tastes.

“Besides my Famous sauce, I have my mild sauce which I sell 25% less of for people who don’t want as much heat,” he said. “I make it with just the base liquids and less spices.”

Warren does not think the mild sauce holds as much potential for awards as his original, but when paired with briskets, which he smokes over 12 hours using applewood and charcoal, he said people love it.

His third sauce was originally created for a chicken wing festival in 2009.
“We came in first place with that – the Throatwarmer sauce,” Warren said. “The sauce does not burn the mouth. Instead it hits the palate, back of the throat and warms going forward, hence the name Throatwarmer.”

Sam Arnold, Warren’s wife, is appreciative of spice which does not overpower.

“I don’t like biting in and it’s so spicy you can’t taste anything, but this one is just so flavorful,” she said.

Prior to moving to St. Cloud in 2006, Warren and Sam were mobile and set up their barbecue business at events in eight states.

“I borrowed my uncles grill, smoking out if it for a few events, when I decided I wanted to start myself once more,” Warren said. “I prayed for a new smoker and a way to get it.”

The smoker he found and bought in 2001 remains the same one he uses today.

“My smoker probably has 20,000 miles on it and who knows how many briskets I have made on it,” Warren said. “I put on a minimum of six on every time I cook.”
Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee and Oklahoma all were visited by Warren and Sam with their trailer, tent, motor home, and famous barbecue sauces.

“We ran our motor home into the ground, literally,” Warren said. “You could see the highway going down. A favorite memory remains from Tulsa, Oklahoma. We stopped for a friend and set up for a barbecue competition where people from all over the world came to compete. Everyone had so much fun. When it came to the judging, I came in fifth place with my barbecue chicken.”

The couple won the Best in Sturgis People’s Choice Award two years in a row at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

“That’s how we got involved with the motorcycles and traveled doing several events with them,” Sam said.

Landing in central Minnesota, the Arnolds volunteered and stayed at the Place of Hope in St. Cloud while playing Christian music at coffee houses, tiny churches and missions until they bought the Fireside Café for a period of time in 2009 and then a smaller café following.

“We have talked about trying restaurants again many times,” Sam said. “But I think we do better at events when people come and they are right there with the smokers right by us.”

Owning a restaurant, Warren felt he was trapped in the kitchen away from the people who enjoyed the food. Even though he could come out and visit, he said it was not the same.

“That’s why I don’t want a food truck,” Warren said. “I like the tent-being outside talking with one on one contact.”

Warren will tell anyone how to smoke and cook meat on the grill but will never let his sauce recipes slip. Only two people have the honor of knowing his secrets – his wife and himself.

“I don’t even think about what I’m doing anymore; I just do it,” Warren said. “I am very particular about how I cook. I won’t serve anything I won’t eat, and I won’t serve anything that won’t tantalize the taste buds.”

Today, the Arnolds commit to local special events and the occasional catering job. Recently, they set up at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Fishing Tournament and they are scheduled to appear at St. Cloud’s Arts in the Park July 21.

“The best part about this whole deal is the people – making people smile,” Warren said. “You can tell how good someone’s food is by the amount of time it takes them to finish it after they take the first bite.”