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Collingwood couple encapsulate Argentine barbecue ritual into popular empanadas

'I woke up in the middle of the night and decided empanadas were the answer,' said Joseph Griffin, co-founder of Loco por el Asado

A local couple is bringing Argentine barbecue to backyards in Collingwood through their business, Loco por el Asado

Loco por el asado translated from Spanish means “crazy for the barbecue,” which is how owners Joseph Griffin and his wife, Alejandra feel about outdoor cooking.

“In Argentina, the barbecue is a weekend ritual. Getting together with friends and family every Sunday is very important,” said Joseph.

Catering to Collingwood and the surrounding areas, Loco por el Asado specializes in authentic Argentine culinary experiences, with a focus on asado and empanadas. Lockdown restrictions notwithstanding, the food service is available for hire for family gatherings, birthdays, backyard parties, weddings, or any other special occasion or events. 

“I love serving people the food and seeing them enjoy it, simple as that,” Joseph said.

Joseph grew up in Toronto and Alejandra in Argentina, but the duo met over two decades ago on a cruise in Chile. Twenty-one years later, they now call Collingwood home with their five children.

Before settling in Canada, the couple spent five or so years living in Argentina.

“We did a lot of barbecuing down there. Some days, you might go to two or three different barbecues. Or one on Saturday night and a couple more on Sunday because you have to go see all your friends and family,” said Joseph. 

When they moved back to Canada, Joseph worked as an assistant professional at a golf club, which is what brought them to Collingwood 12 years ago. One season, Joseph was in charge of organizing an end of the year party, so he decided to barbecue in the best way he knew — and the response was fantastic. 

“Members were asking me how much I would charge for a backyard party,” Joseph said. “I had no idea what to charge for something like this… But I decided to figure it out.” 

The barbecue business began as a side hustle, with the couple spending their summer catering backyard gatherings and weekends at farmers’ markets. Joseph built a barbecue on the back of a trailer so the “kitchen” could be transported easily from place to place. 

After an event one summer, they happened to have a considerable amount of leftovers. Sick of eating beef ribs day after day, Joseph started experimenting, and reached out to family and friends in Argentina for recipe ideas. The result was his now-famed Loco Empanadas. 

“I woke up in the middle of the night and decided empanadas were the answer,” said Joseph. “And they turned out really good.” 

They continued to barbecue at pop-ups and backyard events, and started packaging the empanadas for purchase online and in local stores as well. However, when COVID-19 hit, Joseph and Alejandra decided to put the business on hold temporarily. 

When fall rolled around, they were itching to get back into the kitchen, so they rented space at Duntroon Hall and began cooking their empanadas on overdrive. 

They now have over 10 different flavours that can be purchased online and found in several local stores throughout South Georgian Bay, including Beaver Rock Cafe in Stayner, the 100 Mile Store in Creemore, Goldsmith’s Orchard Market in Thornbury and the Market on Marsh Street in Clarksburg. This summer, they hope to work with Currie’s Farm Market and The Wild Stand as well. 

When the weather got warmer and the lockdown was temporarily lifted this spring, the couple brought the barbecue to Collingwood Brewery, feeding patrons on the patio on weekends. 

“It’s a fun way to kick off the season,” said Joseph. “They really like what we’re doing and we like what they are doing.”

If restrictions allow, they plan to continue their pop-ups at the Collingwood Brewery all summer. 

For now, Joseph and Alejandra are looking for other ways to support their community in the current lockdown. The couple has decided to take 10 per cent of their sales from the month of April and use it to purchase gift cards to other local establishments, and then will donate them to healthcare workers as a thank you for their tireless efforts. 

“Everything is bonkers right now, so it will be nice to have at least a little something to give,” Joseph said. 

To purchase empanadas online or learn more about Loco por el Asado, visit their website.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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