What do you do when you’re a two-time KCBS world champion with numerous team BBQ awards and grand championship accolades? If you’re Chris Schafer of Heavy Smoke BBQ, you have to consider that making BBQ for his customers is a lot different from making a sample for BBQ judges.
What’s The Secret Behind Chris Schafer’s BBQ Passion?
It wasn’t always a bright future for Chris, but he did share a passion for cooking where he ended up meeting another cook where they shared similar thoughts and ideas. It was back in the early 2000s that Chris became friends with Chad Brewer and worked in an upscale restaurant where they cooked burgers all the way through Italian dishes.
It wasn’t the greatest job in the world but it did give both of these aspiring cooks some experience and a steady paycheck. After 7 years of seemingly redundant work at the same restaurant, Chris finally had enough and decided to change the direction of his career outside the food biz.
His friend Chad stuck with the cook work and began to move around to better-paying cook positions and began to refine his skills in the culinary arts field. Yet for Chris, it took him an additional 4 years before he discovered his true calling. In 2011, he decided to pursue BBQ cooking competitions and discovered that people really enjoyed his BBQ style.
Jumping ahead into the deep waters of BBQ competitions meant that Chris embraced these competitions as a way to earn some money with his food. Over the next three years, he saved up his winnings and began to assemble a BBQ team that shaped their reputation. It was in 2014 that Chris had settled on the name Heavy Smoke BBQ.
It’s all a matter of family when it comes to Chris’s team which includes his Father Eddie and Chris’s wife Danielle. By 2017, their business within the BBQ circuit came full circle when Chris decided to team up with his old buddy Chad to start a full-fledged business together. Their concept was simple and consisted of a food trailer that was fully capable of preparing all sorts of BBQ dishes that featured Chris’s delicious BBQ flavors.
This partnership not only opened doors for both of them since Chad’s professional experience in the kitchen and Chris’s string of BBQ competition wins quickly gave them plenty of business. For Chris and Eddie though, they spent a lot of time away from home since the BBQ circuit always kept them on the road.
This allowed their budget to keep the food trailer open and Chad was pretty busy duplicating the BBQ style that Chris had become known for. Even Chris’s wife runs the business with her best intentions to keep things running smoothly. While all of this was happening, steps toward the future were already being laid down until an unforeseen incident brought everything to a halt.
The BBQ Circuit, A Floundering Food Truck, And The Coronavirus
It was in 2020, that everyone in America saw life change forever. For some, it was a matter of transition, while for others it meant total life changes to everyday life. For the team of Heavy Smoke BBQ, it meant the end of a winning streak that saw over 42 national competitions per year. That’s an average of almost three and a half BBQ competitions every month.
When COVID-19 settled in, this literally shut down the national BBQ circuit along with dozens of other festivals and competitions which many independent BBQ enthusiasts were part of. Despite this, this also affected their food truck business likewise which only fueled quick thinking from Chris and his crew to figure out a smart solution.
This is how the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar location was the best idea they had without even knowing it. With Chad’s expertise in the restaurant industry for so many years and Chris’s dedication to making BBQ tasty, they decided to open their first location in St. Peters by November of 2020.
Since then, they’ve continued to grow by making as many as 30 briskets per day as opposed to a single brisket for a BBQ competition. They take more care to reproduce the same BBQ skills with these larger numbers, but their BBQ fans are certainly coming back for even more now since delivery services make it easier to deliver their award-winning BBQ treats.
As if that wasn’t enough, they still make time to go to as many competitions as possible and this year won the grand prize of world championship BBQ at the KCBS invitational world championship. It seems their recipe for success is one more reason we’re keeping a close eye on how Heavy Smoke is poised for being a real survivor for award-winning BBQ!