Food

A Passion in the Pit

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Steve Starnes never saw “Southern Smoq,” his barbeque restaurant in Flowery Branch, coming. Perhaps he should have, but life sometimes takes us on unexpected journeys and surprises us. While one of Steve’s great loves has been great barbeque, and smoke often leads to fire, it took Steve some time before he realized that he was supposed to share his talents with the world in the form of
a restaurant.

Early on in his career, Steve worked in the post-production business. Grilling out was just something that he did at home to relax and enjoy with friends. That passion stuck with him as the post-production industry changed and Steve’s company downsized. While Steve was able to find work with his father-in-law’s software company for a time, he knew that there was something else that he wanted to do; he just wasn’t sure what it was at first.

One night, as the itch to do more was particularly bad, Steve sat down at his computer. With one part desperation to get out of the situation he was in at work and two parts prayer that this new career would be God’s will in his life, only one word came to mind as the Google search bar popped up on the
screen. “BARBEQUE.”

“It wasn’t much more than a feeling in the pit of my stomach that night. I just knew barbeque was what I was supposed to be doing. I felt like God was calling me into it.” By the way, this wasn’t the first time that the idea had been presented to Steve.

Steve’s brisket and pork had grown a reputation with his church and the mission organizations he would volunteer his talents towards. Members of his church raved about his skills in the pit, and would often come up to him and say, “You need to open a restaurant.” Steve laughs as he looks back now. “I actually stood up in church years ago and announced that I would never open a restaurant. I guess that was a bit premature. It was the furthest thing from my mind back then, but now I couldn’t be happier this is what I’m doing. The customers love it and I love it.”

Steve is very proud of the consistency of quality “Southern Smoq” has been able to maintain since he opened several years ago. “Instead of comparing our barbeque to any regional style, I prefer to put the focus on the meat itself having a great taste and flavor before any type of sauce is added.” Barbeque purest will appreciate the sentiment.