Firin’ Up the BBQ with BBQ Pitmaster Jeff ‘STRETCH’ Rumaner: An Interview

All images courtesy of Stretch and O’Donnell Media Group

By Anthony Montalbano

There are many words that can describe Jeffrey Rumaner, A.K.A. “STRETCH” and “eccentric” is just one of them. His over-the-top personality transitions very well from the television to radio and to the live stage very well in an experience not to be missed if you’re a fan of food, music, and fun, seeing as you read below in our chat on what is incorporated in the live shows. STRETCH’s attention to detail and the way he immerses himself into every project and gets involved personally in all the goings ons with everything he’s a part of is something you can attribute to the massive success that Stretch has had over the years.

Joining the likes of Guy Fieri and John Taffer, Stretch is a T.V. personality, artist, musician, restauranteur, and BBQ pitmaster; he’s done it all and is not afraid to get his hands dirty and put in the work it takes to be successful. In this interview with STRETCH, we cover everything from his work in the music industry, how he’s involved with GWAR, his new music and upcoming album Carnivore of Chaos featuring 11 songs, 10 of which are new tracks by STRETCH himself and a very special thanks to rock band Black Oxygen featuring Nick Lyle and David Lyle, Curtain Call Records and Rock Rage Radio

Read below to find out what makes Stretch, well, Stretch in a whirlwind of creativity and passion; when you’re done here, be sure to check his social media @stretchartist for news, art, fun, music, food, and more!

STRETCH, it’s great to have you here! Hope you’re doing well over there in Kansas City.

Doing great, just ordered a spicy chicken wrap from my restaurant out here in KC. Where are you located?

I’m out in North Carolina, close to Asheville. So a lot of good barbecue joints out here, which I’m sure you’re well aware of.


I did a barbecue competition in Asheville and had a great time with my buddies in Charlotte while I was out there at a place called Pinky’s Westside Grill. They have killer food, Pinky’s, and their chef, Greg Auten, was on Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives).

Along with Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, you’ve also worked on Bar Rescue a couple of times

I was on two Bar Rescues. I did one up in Boston and one in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, outside Nashville.

What was it like working with Jon Taffer and being on the set for that show?

Taffer is an awesome guy. He is incredibly smart, as he knows exactly what he’s doing. And you know, he’s a camera personality guy, off camera, he’s a different person altogether, but he knows his shit.

Prior to Taffer, I did about half a dozen or so Extreme Makeover Home Editions so I was working with Ty (Pennington) and other talents like that. And then I had my own show (Eating the Enemy) that was gonna be on Animal Planet.

They were actually just filming an episode of Bar Rescue down the street from me a couple of weeks ago, and I think it’s supposed to air fairly soon.

So it was one of the recent ones. They slam those out. It’s usually a couple of month turnaround depending on what time of year it is when they film it; if it’s one of the first ones of the year, they get it out faster, but then they start stacking them up because they’re shooting you know, one a week. When Guy (Fieri) does his show, he shoots three episodes in three different locations a day.

All images courtesy of STRETCH and O’Donnell Media Group

The TV business is no joke! You’ve been on quite a few shows with Guy Fieri, haven’t you?

I’ve done at least three or four of just my restaurants and then appearances on maybe another four, and then I’ve done his Guy’s Grocery Games for at least three episodes. With that. I’ve done a couple of other demos with them on camera. I think I’ve done about 50 TV shows at this point.

You’ve surely done a lot over the years, and now you’re getting into music!

And now I’m getting into music. I just talked to a guy working in my garage, and he was like “Stretch, what the hell else are you gonna do? You’re gonna be a brain surgeon next?!”.

So that’s what we’re here talking about today, your music, your new video that just came out for “Flavortown” and is a prerequisite to a full album coming out soon.

Last year we put out a song called “First Bite” that we did with Black Oxygen. They are super great musicians and good friends of mine, especially at this point. The record label said, “You know, STRETCH. No one’s really doing this kind of genre. This kind of food and rock and roll. You think you could do a whole album?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Yeah, okay. Sure. Hell yeah, we can do it.”  and so we did it. I wrote a lot of lyrics to this thin, and I sing on probably 90% of the new album.

The new album is called Carnivore of Chaos. it’s about food, family, life experiences, travel, and all the good stuff you need to make a good story. it’s going to drop here middle of April. We dropped “Flavortown” and did the video. And then, probably next week or the week after, we’re going to drop a single called “Dine and Dash.” And I think everybody’s done it; they shouldn’t do it. But sometimes you have to do it.


It’s a great tune! The guitar is killer, it’s fun rock’n’roll with great influences, and then we’ll drop the album shortly after that. I got another single that’s on the album, but a video to go with it called “I Hate the HOA.” That one sounds like old-school 90s, late 80s New York City punk.

Sounds like you’re going to have a mix of genres and sounds throughout the album, with “Flavortown” having that 80s hair metal sound and then “HOA” with the punk sound.

I don’t have much hair left. You try and headbang, and it doesn’t do a lot, you know, just throws out your neck!


But yeah, you’re right. You know, those are the influences. That’s the era I grew up. I saw my first outdoor tour in 1978 with Steve Miller and Fleetwood Mac, Santana, and Joe Walsh, and my first indoor show was Van Halen touring for One, you can’t shake that great rock and roll. I love that heavy metal sound, too, my early years of rock ‘n’ roll, I was working with Gwar we were all in grad school together, great friends, great music, and great influences.

Motley Crue, some Twisted Sister, and Motorhead, they just pounded the shit out, you can’t get away from them, and that’s how they became influences for the album and my music.

All images courtesy of STRETCH and O’Donnell Media Group

It’s great to see the ’80s hair band and metal making a comeback by either influencing new artists. and people like yourself.

It should be fun. If it’s not fun, I don’t know what to do. I put my time in as an artist; I’m a sculptor by trade, and I’ve lived on floors and in warehouses. My studio is where I go to do my stuff and make art, and is now my rock and roll set. I’m at a point in my life and in my career where if it’s not fun, I just say screw it. I got two restaurants, I got a music venue, we got everything going on, and it’s a lot of fun. People ask me, “Why are you doing this, STRETCH?” and I tell them, “Because it’s fun.” I have something to offer and bring everybody along for the ride.

You’re also making your shows a sort of interactive experience, so you really are bringing something for everyone.

When you go to a concert, there’s going to be a barbecue and food; we bring everybody together. Food, art, and music bring people together no matter where they are in the world. Every culture has art, food, and music, and whether you speak the language or not, it’s something everyone can relate to.

Let’s take it to the beginning; where did it all start that eventually got you to BBQ Pitmasters?

Well, you know, I started eating at a very young age. I remember sitting around the table and going, “Man, we should do something; I’m kind of hungry.” Pretty soon, there were two or three people together, and we started eating!


Seriously though, I started my first kitchen job at Woolworths in Philly. It was a department store that had little burgers and fries stands in there. That’s when I dropped my first fry basket. Then I got a job at McDonald’s because it was great to make money and have free food. Not that I didn’t grow up without food.

In art school, I worked in some restaurants and bars, and in grad school, I was working in a rock and roll bar where I was kind of like the rock and roll repairman. So whether it was a bus or van, everyone always ripped the fender off their trailer, and we’d leave the club at three in the morning, go to my studio and weld it up and they’d be back on the road.

And with Gwar, I built their second tour bus and trucks; it was dope, a lot of sets and props with them. Being an artist and living in our studios, in a lot of places, you weren’t allowed to have kitchens, you weren’t supposed to live there. So if they came through and saw a kitchen or like you’re living there, they’d kick you out, so I had to learn how to cook hotdogs on nails and hamburgers on iron sheets or grilled cheese. I knew my way around, and one thing that I could always have was a fire because I had torches to cut steel. And I’d heat up steel plate. I could cook eggs right on. It was very crude.

Innovation breeds function, and that all just snowballed over the years into what you’re doing now with the sculpting and the cooking and, eventually, your restaurants.

It’s all fused together over the years. I’m from Philly, but I went to art school in Kansas City. I did my masters in Richmond and then got invited back to work at the Art Institute in Kansas City, and then moved to New York, but kept studios in KC and open the gallery here back in the day. When I moved back, there were no good New York-style pizza and Philly cheese steaks, and I had this building that was a gallery, and I said, “You know what? We need a place where the artists can go hang out”, because the area was starting to get gentrified and developed and was no place for people like us to hang out and eat so I opened Grinders, and next year will be 20 years.

And we have a big music venue on the back side. We do 3000 People here, and everybody from Ziggy Marley and Elvis Costello to Blondie has played here. George Thorogood as well; it’s been crazy fun. We do about 12 to 15 shows a year now, and a great production company I work with, and I think this year we have Ziggy Marley coming in, Ween, Dirty Heads. it’s a cool venue. It’s right; it’s outdoors, right downtown. I can’t shake the music, I have a lot of musician friends, and I’ve always dabbled in the visual arts side of things, so it’s great to be getting into music now.

All images courtesy of STRETCH and O’Donnell Media Group

It’s wonderful that you’re directly involved with everything that’s going on as opposed to watching from the sidelines.

I’ll tell ya; I can’t do it without the team. There’s no way in hell I could do this. I am nothing without the people around me that make it actually happen. I mean, we have a great crew. And we’re, you know, we’re down to two restaurant locations, and we had close to two for COVID But the people that are still with us and rocking it out on both sides, the music or the restaurants or whatever, any of my projects, they allow me to do the stuff I do. So I can’t do it without them.

Do you plan on expanding your restaurant business outside of Kansas City?

So we’re on both sides of the line, we’re on the Missouri side and the Kansas side, and Grinder’s is franchisable. Due to Food Network shows and all the other shows I’m on, Grinders has become a great brand known around the world for food, fun and interesting environments.

You also have your own line of hot sauce. Do you have spices and rubs as well?

We do! We have 4 different heat levels for our hot sauce; Wimpy, Molten, Near Death, and Death Nectar; then we have our Bangin’ Barbecue Sauce as well as a Grinder’s rub.

We have our Rockin’ Red Sauce that’s getting ready to hit the market soon, as well as “Dough Balls,” our pizza dough. Stretch Specialties runs that whole division, and we’re probably in four or 500 locations around the country.

This is probably one of the harder questions I got for you. What are some of your favorite barbecue joints that you’ve been to all over the country?

It’s funny you mentioned that because there’s literally a song on the new album called “Eating My Way Across the USA.” It’s kinda like the Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere,” and it’s just placed after place after place that I’ve been to.

Here in KC, there’s Joe’s or Slaps are a couple of my favorites; Valentino’s out in Texas, and Blacks are great in Texas. Mendels down in Florida, and down that way, you got Hales Blackbrick Chinese in Tampa. Pinkie’s in Charlotte is great, and Martin’s BBQ Joint is in Tennessee, so they’re scattered all over.

Different places do different things better than others so If I say I’m going somewhere, people always recommend places where they actually bring it to us when we’re recording; Tuffy Stones, down in Richmond, was killer, and now Myron Mixon has got himself scattered around the country. Myron does a hell of a pork; you got to get yourself to The Shed Barbecue in Ocean Springs, probably 50 to 70 restaurants I mentioned in the song just rattling them off. And you know, whether it’s Panini Pizza or Handsome Devil BBQ up in New York City or Chicago Culinary up in Chicago. This song has a honky tonk sound to it as well.

There are some great apps out there that can tell you some great places around. Guy (Fieri) has one, he does go to a lot of great places, and he’ll tell you if it’s good or not being on the barbecue circuit.

All images courtesy of STRETCH and O’Donnell Media Group

So, it sounds like the new album will have a sort of mix of genres from song to song; how many songs do you have on the album?

There are 10 new songs and then “First Bite,” and I only do one cover. I do a cover of “Ice Cream Man” that Van Halen made famous, but it was by an old blues guy named John Brim. I actually give a little shout-out in the song; you can’t ever duplicate a song; it’s not my intent to cover it like Van Halen did or anything like that, you can’t. Who can ever match an Eddie riff perfectly? It’s like you can have the world’s best lasagna, but it’s never gonna be better than your grandmother’s. You know, Eddie Van Halen is my grandmother’s lasagna.

There are a total of 11 songs. I won’t say they’re all over the place; they all kind of relate to each other. There’s one called “Propane and Propane Accessories” that’s about cooking. There’s one called “Grill’s a Battlefield,” one called “Breakfast in Bed,” which is kind of a love song; it’s a ballad. Yes, I sing a love song; it’s all about breakfast in bed. There’s one called “Firestarter,” which is just power chords. Of course, there’s “Carnivore Chaos,” which is just dark and evil, so they’re not all shiny and happy.

There are some funny ass lyrics. Brett Hessler, who was our engineer and our producer on this, we would literally just giggle like little schoolgirls when we were writing the lyrics and having fun with it and laying down track after track and just doing it was a blast. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to make this thing happen. So hopefully, everyone else can get on board, and you know, listen to it.

STRETCH, it’s been an absolute blast talking to you today. Is there anything else you wanted to get out there before you go?

Yeah, just follow @stretchartist on pretty much all platforms and that, of course, on all the media outlets like Amazon Music and Spotify. I can’t thank Curtain Call Records, Rock Rage, and all the DJs that are spinning our stuff or pushing the button and pretending it’s spinning in, and guys like you that are promoting just go out and support live music and local businesses! Everybody’s watching the local people. That’s what my shit’s all about!

All images courtesy of STRETCH and O’Donnell Media Group

Anthony Montalbano is a contributor for and may be reached at

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