Our story and roots in southern BBQ began while growing up on a large family farm and cattle ranch in Bay Springs, Mississippi. My dad taught me how to smoke large cuts of meat on an off-set smoker in the back yard. We were smoking the finest cuts of grass-fed beef and pork on pecan and peach wood decades before it became popular in South GA. The first time I had pasteurized milk was when I started grade school. We were pretty self-sufficient except for chickens, flour, and sugar.
We raised several hundred head of all natural grass-fed beef cattle about 50 years before it was fashionable to do so. We also raised pigs and goats. If that wasn’t enough, we farmed several hundred acres of watermelons, cantaloupe, peaches, corn, and tomatoes. The newly invented concept of “Farm to Table” was a way of life in our family 60 years ago. We milked our two Jersey cows, Kricket and Bobtail, and fed several prized beef steers every morning before school. That didn’t leave much time for dilly-dally. Occasionally we were allowed a break and that meant sitting under the giant pecan trees in the backyard shelling peas and butterbeans. Well you get the picture.
In addition to the farming and cattle business, my dad is a life-long private consulting forester. He taught me a lot about forestry and trees and the subtleties of smoking meats with most hardwood and fruit species. I have been an active tree farmer applying the principles of sustainable forestry and wildlife conservation my entire life.
I made an escape from the farm and cattle business while in college and moved to Baton Rouge on a scholarship and became an LSU Tiger with a double major in music and landscape architecture. That’s where I met my wife, Tracey, who was born in Houston and lived in Baton Rouge. While living in Louisiana, my culinary palate began to explode.
I spent most of my life in the retail business making a living and dreaming about someday opening a restaurant that specialized in the best BBQ on the planet. Tracey and I relocated to Atlanta with Home Depot in 1989. In 1990, I had the privilege of meeting and working with another Cajun transplant, Bill Paul. Bill was a great Cajun chef and hosted a Cajun Radio Show. He was also a former master welder and had built the finest mobile cooker one could dream of. He and I began cooking for store parties and events feeding upwards of 300 people the best pork and brisket this side of the Mississippi River.
My passion for BBQ was again on fire. Fast forward another few years and my passion for great BBQ led me and two great friends and co-workers at The Home Depot, Keith Williamson and Brian Doshan, together and we founded The Hunt for Dead Pig Club. Our membership rapidly grew back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. In 2004, that pursuit for great BBQ led us to Sam and Dave’s BBQ-1 in East Cobb on opening weekend. That was the beginning of a great friendship with Sam and Dave. Shortly after that, Sam Huff invited me to join his professional competition BBQ team. We traveled all over the south cooking up great BBQ and winning lots of trophies and awards. That was also the first year of the now famous Pork University, a.k.a. Pork U BBQ College of Pig Knowledge. While Sam did most of the talking and the instruction, I established the cook timelines and with the help of our competition BBQ team members, Todd Houghton and Ken Holland, and a growing list of former students have done all of the cooking for the classes over the past 12 years.
Little did I know, my passion and life-long hobby was leading to an unplanned, but, welcomed career change. In 2009, I had finally reached my fill of the retail and corporate world. Sam graciously offered me a position as General Manager at Sam’s BBQ-1 where I was able to overhaul the supply chain logistics, apply operational structure and process, and management expertise that helped grow the business significantly over the next five years. During my time at Sam’s we received many awards from Atlanta Magazine, Garden and Gun, Southern Living, Marietta Daily Journal and many others. Sam is a great friend and mentor in the BBQ business. Today, we still collaborate on a number of projects and events.
My days of herding cattle by horseback, farming, a couple of home remodeling projects gone wrong, and an automobile accident led to a new set of knees on the same morning in 2014. Praise God for a great medical team and loving wife (okay, she’s a saint) to get me through a tough time. That’s when I decided it was time to launch my own company and follow a lifelong dream. Our company name represents my rich southern BBQ heritage. South represents our Southern style BBQ. 40 represents a forty acre young timber plantation that we purchased back in the mid 80’s and manage as a certified tree farm that has funded our dream. The Smokehouse is where tall tales are told and we create our culinary magic.