Since this is the first blog post for the website, it seems like a good time to talk a little bit about how we got here and why we do what we do.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... no, wait, wrong origin story.
I was one of those lucky kids that had a southern granny that knew how to cook and understood that food is love. She began teaching me to cook when I was a wee 5-year old Kook. She is responsible for my life-long love of food, cooking and the firm belief that food is, in fact, love.
Okay, on to the chili... I created what would eventually become the Hades Hellfire almost 30 years ago. It's unique balance of sweet, savory and spicy quickly became a hit among friends. I knew the recipe was "right" when even my friends with very little tolerance for heat were willing to eat bowl after bowl of the chili because they loved the flavor. Those same friends began telling me that I should sell the chili. The thing is, I never thought of food as a career path or a business model. I was a good corporate drone and I thought, "hey, they're my friends, they're biased". I continued to make Hades Hellfire for friends and family and my house would fill up with people every time a batch was ready to eat.
Fast forward a couple of decades. After 2 layoffs from corporate jobs I decided that I was done with corporate America. I was done giving 100% only to find myself jobless when the corporate purse strings needed to be tightened. I had been helping my good friend, Terry Walsh, with the social media for his new Rolling Smoke BBQ food truck for several months before I was laid off and I loved what he was doing. So, I decided to jump into the smoke and the fire and join him in building his business.
The decision to become a part of Rolling Smoke was the beginning of a turning point in my life. My love of preparing food for people and watching the joy it brought to them rose to a new level. Suddenly, it wasn't just feeding friends, it was feeding absolute strangers. Seeing that moment of absolute bliss when someone was in their food happy place filled my soul in a way that no corporate job ever could. I had found my calling.
In 2017, Rolling Smoke was invited to participate in the BBQ competition at the National Western Stock show in Denver, CO. Part of that competition was a chili cook-off. I got a call from Terry telling me that he had entered my Hades Hellfire chili in the competition. I was both excited and terrified at the prospect of putting my chili in front of the prestigious Kansas City BBQ Society judges.
The day of the event arrived and there I was with a big stock pot of Hades Hellfire surrounded by competitors that had fully decorated tables, music and outfits. Meanwhile, I had a bare table. I suddenly felt like competing might have been a mistake. As the tasting went on I started to have other competitors coming to my table asking me for samples. Apparently, they had been told by the judges to try my chili.
So, there I was in the crowd, waiting to hear the results of the judging... the anticipation was intense. When they announced the winner, I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing. "First place goes to Hades Hellfire!". I couldn't believe that this chili I had created, and was loved by so many friends, had actually won! I would find out later that Hades Hellfire had received more votes than all of the other competitors combined. At that moment, all of the feedback I had gotten from my friends was validated. More importantly, though, I finally believed in myself, my palate and my ability to create delicious food.
Fast forward several years and Rolling Smoke has moved from a food truck to 2 successful restaurants and stand at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Slinging 80lb cases of meat and the overall heavy duty nature of what we were doing took a serious toll on my body and, in 2020, I found myself in the hospital TWICE for neck surgeries. After the 2nd surgery, my doctor looked at me and very gravely explained that if I kept doing what I was doing, I would eventually end up in a wheelchair. That moment crushed my heart. I loved what I was doing and I loved being a part of helping Terry build his BBQ empire.
After taking some time to process everything, my family encouraged me to follow my dream and Kook's Chili was born. I began creating new chili varieties and wrangled up a group of people to be my official taste testers. I wanted to be sure that every chili was "just right" before offering up for sale. Pretty soon I had developed a solid roster of chilis and people were starting to take notice.
Enter Cody Russell. Cody was one of my taste testers and his love for what I was doing nearly rivaled mine. Now Cody is not only my brother from another mother, he is also a partner in the business.
Kook's is a family. The friends that helped me get this far are all honorary Kooks and family. Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, "buy the ticket, take the ride". The Kook's family has a pocket full of tickets and we're all ride or die.
If you read this far, thank you. I want you to know that every batch of chili we make is not just "chili"... every single bowl is filled with love, passion and joy and every single one of our customers is part of our extended family. So, from our family to yours, welcome to the family. We look forward to making your taste buds and tummies happy.