Surgeons of sauce: Docs spice up BBQ

If you live in Charlottesville and you've broken any bones, there's a good chance orthopaedic surgeon Dr. David Heilbronner put you back together. The Charlottesville native has been in private practice here since 1991; he served on the faculty of UVA's orthopaedic department for most of the 1980s. But a second career was born five years ago when his daughter's soccer team needed to raise money for a tournament trip to Italy.

While fixing people was a career, fixing dinner had always been a passion, inspired by Heilbronner's father, who used to cook all the "fancy" meals for the family.

"We would go on culinary adventures when I was growing up and even years later would talk about memorable dishes – the sweetbreads in a tarragon sauce in San Francisco, the fritures in Narbonne, France and everything in between," says Heilbronner. " His encouragement led me to running a small catering business when I was in high school and then to a summer of 1969 job as a baker at Grossinger’s Hotel in the Catskills."

That summer Heilbroner says he lucked out be off the weekend there was a certain famous music festival held at a farm in New York.

"But that's a whole other story," he says. 

Heilbronner says he's always done the cooking in his family, as its always been his favorite way to relax.

"My philosophy has always been so many recipes, so little time," he says. " I have no specialties and love to cook any variety of ethnic food."

For years, Heilbronner had been experimenting in the kitchen, especially with BBQ sauces. At one time, he had even considered opening a restaurant with old friend and colleague Dr. Bruce Wilhelmsen, an orthopedic surgeon in North Carolina who shared Heilbronner's fascination with concocting recipes.

Heilbronner offered to whip up some of his home-made BBQ sauce and sell it at the soccer field to raise money for the trip. People loved it and told him he should start a restaurant.

"But running a restaurant is more work than being in medicine," says Heilbronner, reflecting on those med school days when he worked in restaurants. "So I decided to focus on the sauce."

For two and half years, he and Wilhelmsen worked on recipes, driving their families nuts with tastings and constant BBQ sauce talk and experiments.

"The sauce at the fundraiser was good," says Heilbronner, "but we wanted something that was going to be really different."

Eventually, Bone Doctors’ BBQ Sauce was born. The first commercial batch was made in November 2009. Just this month, Bone Doctors' was featured in the Washington City Paper in its coverage of the coming Summer Fancy Food Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center July 10-12. What's more, the sauce was named a Sofi silver finalist in the Outstanding Food Gift category, one of just 100 finalists in 31 categories selected from 1,600 entries. It will be recognized at the Fancy Food Show. In particular, judges liked the wooden boxes the sauces come in, boxes Heilbronner says he makes himself.

"Orthopedic surgery is a bit like carpentry anyway," he says.

Look for Bone Doctors BBQ Sauce at Market Street Wine Shop, Martin Hardware, Foods of All Nations, The Happy Cook, The Virginia Shop, and Acme Stove Company.


I hope it's not too hot. The spicy stuff gives me indigestion.

They have several varieties. The Original one is my fave because, like you, I can't tolerate the hot stuff. I will tell you that those who prefer it hot rave about the Sweet and Spicy. The gift pack is perfect to take as a house gift when you travel..a little local "flavor".This stuff is sensational. (and I'm not related to either doctor).