This Self-Taught Bay Area Pitmaster Is Slanging Saucy, Hawaiian-Inspired Barbecue

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A barbecue pitmaster in a Hawaiian shirt holds up two bottles of his signature sauce.
Olivier Grandvoinet shows off his signature "Guavanero" barbecue sauce. His pop-up, Island Bay Cocina, is selling island-inspired ribs and carnitas around the Bay. (Sahar Nayrami)

No one has ever gone to Old Oakland’s Sante Adairius to grub on an island-style carnitas quesadilla. The narrow, wood-laden bar, whose quaint interior somehow reminds me of a scene from The Lord of the Rings, is better known for rustic ales.

But thanks to Olivier Grandvoinet and his pop-up, Island Bay Cocina, it’ll be possible to combine a German Maibock-style Günther with a bite of wood-smoked, guava-and-habanero-drenched pork this Saturday afternoon.

The pairing may sound uncommon. That’s because Grandvoinet — a mixed-race Black man who was born in Oregon, raised in Hawaii and came of age in San Francisco’s North Beach, where he mostly befriended immigrant and first-generation Latinos while attending high school in Potrero Hill — isn’t your average mainland American. His unique upbringing shows in his hard-to-categorize recipes. One thing is consistent, though: The man loves barbecuing.

“I bring that Hawaiian spirit and a love for slow cooking,” says Grandvoinet. “I treat pork like it’s royalty, with the care it needs to be transformed into something special.”

After leaving his career in tech to pursue full-time food making during the pandemic, Grandvoinet has committed himself to the pursuit of soulful relaxation and liberated joy through serving his community — literally. And what food provides a more hands-off, share-your-plate, kick-back-and-enjoy-life’s-leisurely-pleasures vibe than wood-smoked barbecue?

a rack of carnitas in the smoker
A rack of “carnitas” (which are smoked for 10 hours) being prepared for quesadillas. (Courtesy of Olivier G.)

“Growing up, I felt a huge lack of barbecue from the Bay. Da’ Pitt on Divisadero was the best back in the day, but then it got replaced by some wack gentrified barbecue. I was bummed. I knew I needed to make some good barbecue,” Grandvoinet says.


As someone who grew up in a single-parent home “eating food off EBT in a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood,” Grandvoinet became a tech worker to help his mom keep up with the rising costs of living. But after four years, Grandvoinet felt unfulfilled and tokenized in the industry. After a layoff during the pandemic, he never looked back and dove into life as an aspiring pitmaster. Like many late-twentysomethings, he used YouTube and the internet to learn his new craft. Now, Grandvoinet embraces his non-traditional approach to the pit.

What does that taste like? Besides his flagship “Fat Daddy Quesadilla” (which includes the aforementioned fat-slicked carnitas, crispy jack cheese, cilantro, onions and homemade guava habanero barbecue sauce), the “Big Kahuna” is Grandvoinet’s signature plate: a grilled all-beef hot dog topped with an intimidating amount of pulled pork, island slaw and barbecue sauce.

On other occasions, the chef might cook up Spam musubi (always under $5, he proudly emphasizes) or empanadas filled with chopped 14-hour brisket and diced jalapeños. Or he might serve a kalua pork sando with a side of five-cheese macaroni. And of course, he slangs hella racks of ribs, most notably at the popular San Francisco day party, “R&B and Ribs,” where he has been one of the rotating chefs since 2022.

When he’s not working as a self-taught chef, Grandvoinet tours the Bay Area to amplify other small food businesses through his social media channel, Oli Be Eatin. His Mexican American sous chef and business partner, Drea Eats, also contributes to the brand with her Latinx perspective and flavors. Together, they’re eating and cooking as a way to exchange cultural flavors.

a photo of "the Big Kahuna" which consists of a beef hot dog topped with pulled pork and island-style coleslaw
The “Big Kahuna” consists of a beef hot dog topped with pulled pork and island-style slaw. (Courtesy of Olivier G. )

“When I moved here [from Hawaii], I didn’t have a community to fall into. Most of my friends were Mexican American, Peruvian, Salvadoran. As a non-Latino, I never try to pose as something I’m not. But the cocina is where I learned so much about cooking — in the kitchen of my best friend’s home,” he says.

From starting out in an immigrant’s cocina to supplying his own food concoctions for the Bay Area’s diverse masses at various locations around the region, Grandvoinet is simply on a quest to answer his own question: “Where’s the good barbecue at?”

Island Bay Cocina will be at Sante Adairius Oakland Arbor (460 8th St., Oakland) on Sat., June 3 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. or until sold out. Follow on Instagram for more information on future locations and events. For catering services, contact