The air is crisp and cold, but Kimo Morrison is never the less at his barbecue outside his house, proficiently laying marinated steaks on the grill. Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, he seems impervious to the chilly temperature.
“Go on inside,” he says in welcome. “Nicole’s got the table set and we’re just waiting on the steaks.”
Last May, the Morrisons and a couple of business partners (one is Landon Carnie, the other prefers to remain anonymous) took a chance and pooled their funds and resources together to renovate what was formerly the Pooch Parlor and transform the building into Brown Boyz Island BBQ. Located at 272 N. Lincoln Street, Brown Boyz specializes in specially made stir-fries, where customers can choose their plate size, meat (teriyaki beef, Kahlua smoked pork or garlic ginger chicken) noodles or rice) and noodles or rice, complete with carrots, celery, onions and cabbage. Sandwiches served on Hawaiian sweetbread, coconut coleslaw, ramen salad, Lumpia rolls and Pterodactyl wings are more examples of what’s on the menu.
“We started with a food booth at events like Rendezvous Days and Chataqua in Chewelah,” recalls Morrison. “The support and feedback we got from people was really encouraging. People told us we should open a restaurant, so it just seemed like the next step in a direction we were already headed.”
An early start
Meanwhile, it’s dinnertime at the Morrison house. Inside, Morrison’s wife, Nicole, gives a greeting and a sweet, almost shy smile as she busies herself making slight adjustments to the place settings, sets out salads, and wrangles one of the family’s three Labrador Retrievers who bounds into the kitchen to see who’s here.
“Goose, outside,” she admonishes the jovial pet as she expertly maneuvers around him to pour a glass of milk for her youngest son. The other boys trickle through the kitchen one at a time as they return from wrestling practice.
Speaking of the kitchen, it smells delicious. Tonight’s fare is tilapia cooked in red pepper flakes and nouc mam (pronounced nook mom, it’s a Vietnamese fish sauce Morrison learned how to make from Carnie), candied brussel sprouts, a couple different kinds of homemade salads (no bagged veggie mixes here), and of course, steak grilled rare to perfection with Morrison’s signature teriyaki sauce.
“Kimo’s the cook,” says Nicole, offering a refreshing glass of lemonade. “I make spaghetti; that’s my dish!”
“She makes pretty good spaghetti too,” adds Kimo, coming through the back door with the steaks.
It’s obvious that Kimo enjoys cooking, from the way he prepares food to the way he arranges it on the plate before serving it. Brown Boyz is not his first foray into the restaurant business. He actually got his start at age 14 working as a prep cook and waiter for Sarah Lee Pilley, owner of The Roadhouse (now Lovitt Restaurant). It was from Pilley that he learned attention to detail and customer service. In fact, one of the dishes on the dinner table this evening, steaming hot and delectable, is Pilley’s recipe for mashed potatoes
“She not only knew how to cook great food, but she took pleasure in making it look beautiful too,” says Kimo. “She had these seven course meals of down-home southern food that just kept people coming back for more. You felt like you were getting something special when you ate there.”
Born and raised in Colville, with stints in California and Hawaii, Kimo’s enthusiasm for the culinary arts was instilled in him at a young age. His father, John Bremner “J.B.” Morrison, a.k.a. “The Flying Hawaiian,” had his own secret teriyaki recipe (to which Kimo has added a few personal touches to make it his own) and his mother would often employ him and his siblings as willing “guinea pigs” as she practiced dishes she prepared from cooking shows on television. His grandparents would make their grandchildren plentiful breakfasts from scratch.
“You ate what they made you for breakfast, or you had cereal,” says Kimo, chuckling. “They were big into their fiber. You usually didn’t want cereal at their house though, not unless you weren’t feeling well.”
Striving for perfection
When not creating magic in the Brown Boyz kitchen, Kimo is coaching Junior High wrestling, and both he and Nicole are heavily involved in the annual Stevens County Relay for Life event at Colville High School. Nicole works full-time at Key Bank. The couple has four boys between them and two daughters that are Kimo’s. It’s safe to say their plates are full (no pun intended).
“We’re hardly home because we’re involved in so many activities,” says Nicole, who met Kimo when they worked together at a Pizza Hut in Spokane.
Such a hectic social calendar might prompt anyone to cut corners, but that’s not Kimo’s style. He is looking at expanding Brown Boyz menu, including breakfasts on Sunday, and hopefully refurbishing the landscaping around the restaurant to include outdoor seating.
Currently, he does all the cooking at Brown Boyz with help from his daughter Tarrynn, and a few part-time employees to do deliveries. He’s something of a perfectionist in the kitchen, which doesn’t bode well when he or someone else at the eatery makes a mistake. It’s not that his intent is to be taxing, he is just very much aware that the product he puts out is something that word-of-mouth can either bolster or bring down.
For example, last Friday at the restaurant a woman called in to get an order of sandwiches and teriyaki chicken to go. After she picked up her meal, Kimo realized he had forgotten the extra chicken she had asked for. He had Tarrynn go through the phone numbers of incoming calls to try and contact the woman to find out where she was so the rest of her order could be delivered to her.
“You see?” he sighs, adding some vegetables to a pan on the stove. “That’s one of those mistakes that’s going to eat at me for the rest of the day.”
The rest of the patrons at Brown Boyz have no complaints. They are all too busy eating. There was a lull I the lunch rush, but now things are picking back up.
“I never get burned out on cooking,” says Kimo. “I enjoy it so much, as much as I do coaching. I feel blessed that this is what I get to do and that the community supports us. You can’t ask for more than that.”
For more information call Brown Boyz at 684-2888.