Your Cart is Empty

April 04, 2024 2 min read

Smokin' with Luke Darnell: The Rise of Competition Barbecue

Luke Darnell is a man who's turned firing up the grill into a full-blown profession. We'll chat about how remote work has thrown open the doors to passion projects and side hustles, just like Luke's fiery journey from early cooking experiments to mastering the art under the guidance of barbecue legends like Chris Hart. 

Like many passionate pitmasters, Luke's journey began with a fascination for grilling that engulfed his free time and eventually seared its way into a full-time profession. The rise of remote work has further stoked the flames, allowing enthusiasts more hours to marinate in their craft without the commute cutting into their cooking time.  

For Luke, the journey to mastery took a route through learning from the best and attending classes by seasoned cooks like Chris Hart.  

3 Key Takeaways from this Episode:

1. Chad shared an amusing anecdote about a cooking contest mishap involving sweet potato soufflés being accidentally left out in the sun yet still placing 7th out of 150 entries. 

2. Chad and Luke reminisced about the American Royal's social atmosphere, hinting at raucous parties and a clear separation between the quiet and dark sides of the event.

3. Interestingly, Luke started his competition barbecue journey cooking on a Brinkmann Electric, which Chad humorously described as starting out 'like the players play.' 

Listen Here:


Building a Brand Through Hard Work: "You have no idea the roads we've run, the money we've put up, the chances we've bet on ourselves that we could go out there and we could make a name for ourselves, forge something. We just didn't pick a fucking username and start posting shit. You know what I mean? We went out there, and we got on the roads, and we ran it, and we earned it." 

— Chad Ward 

10 Lessons from this Episode:

1. Begin Humble, End Grand: Start small in competitions, like Luke with Brinkman Electric, then gradually increase skill and ambition. 

2. Education Accelerates Success: Attending classes from seasoned competitors such as Chris Hart can launch you quickly into barbecue success.  

3. Commit to the Circuit: Like Luke's 38 annual contests, competing often shows the dedication necessary for barbecue excellence and brand building.  

4. Embrace the Community: Despite hard work, close friendships and authentic connections form within the barbecue world.  

5. Balance Passion and Work: The journey from a passion side project to a full-time barbecue career requires sacrifice and careful planning. 

6. Celebrate Every Achievement: Garnering any recognition, such as a souffle placing 7th, fuels passion despite the outcome's imperfection. 

7. Party Responsibly: Manage socializing, especially at events like American Royal, to stay focused on competition goals.  

8. Contests Can Be Costly: Consider financial commitments seriously; Chad used rent money for barbecue contests, taking considerable risks. 

9. Create an Impactful Brand: Building a successful barbecue brand involves cooking skills, innovative branding, and networking.  

10. Outreach Through Barbecue: Get involved in charity work, like Operation Barbecue Relief, to give back through your culinary skills. 

Learn More About Luke Darnell: