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Smoke Dreams

For many years- actually… many, many years- I’ve dreamed of owning my own restaurant.  When I was a teen, my first jobs all started in restaurants.  I’ve done it all: washing dishes, working the fry station, cooking on the line, waiting tables, and managing the front of house.  I worked in chain restaurants (I was a traveling corporate trainer for Applebees), fine dining spots where I never really fit in, and everywhere in between.  The restaurant industry is where I grew up. It’s where I grew my wings and, honestly, learned some confidence.  I’ve never felt more comfortable than I feel when I’m cooking; I’ve always known this is what I was meant to do.  These days, I spend my time thinking about food in most ways people think about vacationing.   I obsess over the process, the ingredients, and the experience.  For me, it’s way more than just “making dinner”…

In my opinion, the way people think about dreams is kind of silly.  A dream is something that happens while you sleep and, after waking, is quickly dismissed.  In my case, I’ve been unable to shake this dream.  Awake and asleep, I fantasize about food.  Not just regular or even fancy food, but the raw unedited version of food that our ancestors made using fire and smoke and heat and wood to create something delicious using humble cuts of meat and vegetables for survival.  This is why I love barbecue so much. It’s not just the product, it’s the process that’s so important.

When I met Caitlyn, so many things in my life changed.  I’ve never been in a relationship where I so easily put someone else’s happiness in front of mine.  She truly embodies everything good that we as human beings should strive to be.  Always hopeful, always positive, and always ready for what’s next.  The best part of her is that she pushes me, she encourages me, and she inspires me to be the best version of me that I can be.  I know for sure I wouldn’t be writing this post if it wasn’t for her.

Dreams are just dreams unless you actually take some action.  Action, when it comes to dreams, is most certainly not just talking about them; it’s about doing something.  As I’ve learned from Cait, if you really want to make something happen you have to start somewhere, and that’s what this post is all about.

I don’t know when it will happen; I just know that it WILL happen.  We are going to open a restaurant.  A restaurant that embodies everything that’s important to me- and to us- and serves food that is uncompromisingly perfect.  There are a lot of pieces that go into a restaurant, and while barbecue seems simple, it’s most certainly not.  Cooking over wood fires for long hours has many rewards; one of which is time to read, research, and regroup.  I’ve created a bit of a library of sorts in order to educate myself on the life of BBQ to keep me busy and to satiate this never-ending hunger that I have to hone this craft.

We’ve been talking about names for the place for quite some time.  I have to honestly give Cait some credit for this because she is the one who put it in our shared Evernote and it pretty easily stuck.  My grandfather’s name was Russell Everett Eaton, my father was Ronald Russell Eaton, and my full name is Joshua Russell Eaton.  My brother’s son’s name is David Russell Eaton, so the name Russell runs deeply in our family.  Russell’s BBQ has a ring to it, so we’re letting it stick.

Cait and I spent the day creating a DIY menu board for daily inspiration, and I can’t tell you how excited it makes me to see this hanging in the kitchen.  We’ve started a list of Always and Never’s that will become our commandments moving forward.  These are our non-negotiables that drive our dream and our mission.  We also spent the day cooking a competition-trimmed pork shoulder, so I’ll include some obligatory pictures.  I mean… who doesn’t like food/meat porn.

One of these days, I hope to see you at Russell’s…

Family is always first (most important).

We will always serve only wood-fired BBQ (no exceptions).

We will never use crutch cooking (gas, electric, or commercial cookers).

We will always provide world-class customer service.  Always “my pleasure” ensuring that every guest leaves with a mind blowing experience.

We will never serve food that is not up to our standards. If it’s not 100%, it isn’t served.

2 thoughts on “Smoke Dreams

  1. Josh, it’s Aunt Brant here. Just opened your blog to see all about you and Caitlyn! You two look like you were made for each other! I can’t wait to meet her!
    WOW! I did not know you were so into food!! That is awesome!! I am all into food too! You know I love to cook and now that we have the farm I love cooking what we grow!
    I do hope that we can come to Russell’s one day. Our Josh usually cooks BBQ for me (with our butts) on his green egg.
    Since you like food and I like your menu board let me tell you what I served to 20 last week… we had pulled pork, Asian coleslaw, hot cheese and tomato grits (delicious) and a sweet potato bar which included nuts, our honey, coconut, raisins, cinnamon, real butter, of course and brown sugar. We have harvested about 1600 lbs of the best sweet potatoes we have ever eaten this year…. our customers at the market come back week after week to get them they are so tasty. I sure wish we lived closer – we could supply you with some good stuff! 🙂
    I do hope that we can come for the reception in Feb. It sounds wonderful! Will let you all know soon if we can be there.
    MUCH love
    Aunt Brant

    1. I’m so happy you found the blog Aunt Brant! I speak about you and Mr Brant so often! I really hope you guys can come and spend some time with us! I hope even if you can’t visit us, that we can visit you through our travels. We’re planning a trip through BBQ country and you aren’t far off. I love you both and can’t wait to see you soon.

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