The YesTribe is a community turning ideas into action, whether that be encouraging adventurous thinking, finding (or creating) work we love, getting involved in charities or simply designing a lifestyle that fits perfectly with our individual personalities and needs. 

We regularly share YesTribe stories of those who are making life more memorable, and this of course includes YES moments beyond exploring the world. 

In the first of the new YES moments column, Will explains that a way that he wanted to make his like more memorable was to follow his passion for all things barbecue, and build a business around it. He has given a few insights and tips on how he made the transition.

Food entrepreneur Billy Smokes shares his YES moment – and makes us hungry!

With a lifelong passion with food and cooking outdoors, Will had always been obsessed with food, and in particular, barbecuing. After quitting his day job, he went on an enviable stint across America's southern States - the home of slow cooked meat - to learn the tricks of the trade from lifelong 'smokers' and sample their sizzling slow-cooked delights. On returning, uni friend Stu Clark became his foodie accomplice, and Billy Smokes was born.

They have just started a new residency at Brewdog's Punk Kitchen, on Essex Road, their second venture which is now running in addition to the hugely successful initial residency in Howling Hops Brewery, Hackney Wick. 

Here's how it's unfolding....

When was your YES moment? 

I got back from a fun and refreshing three week trip to the US and handed in my notice the first day back at work. It was a pretty daunting moment telling my boss that I no longer wanted to be a Sustainability Consultant and was instead going to become a Barbecue Entrepreneur.

At what point did you know this was what you wanted to do? 

It was about 2 or 3 years ago. I realised that all I was talking about and thinking about doing with friends was eating. And I don't mean in a glutinous, hot-dog-eating-competition sort of way; I mean in a curious and insatiably excited sort of way. I had started travelling quite a bit with work, and got to go to China and Peru and when people asked how my trip was, I instinctively just talked about my food experiences.

I loved visiting new restaurants and markets and discussing with friends what makes Honest Burger better (in humble my opinion) than 'the others', and why. Then I remember going to Pitt Cue (a small but perfectly formed BBQ joint off Carnaby St) and buying their book afterwards. I think that's when I really knew that barbecue was my calling. 

What was the first step in taking it further? 

I talked to a lot of people who had set up food businesses and I tried to get as much experience and knowledge as possible. I devoured cook books and butchery books, then I imposed a bit of a barbecue boot camp on myself to learn as much as possible, taking notes on techniques and cooking temperatures. It was like the science graduate in me had finally been let loose. Going back to America to travel through the Southern States was also an amazing experience. I met some of the most celebrated pitmasters in the world and worked with some incredibly talented people. .....oh and I qualified as Certified Barbecue Judge.

What's been the most mind blowing thing about the experience so far? 

I think I'm just so much more comfortable 'being my own brand', rather than feeling I have to act in a certain way as I have done in previous jobs. It's amazing to work with other people who are also doing their own thing, whether it's our staff (some of who are part-time so have music/video interests), suppliers or potential collaborators, it's exciting to develop genuine relationships rather than just swapping business cards at a networking event.

Any surprises?

Yeah, the fact that I've lost weight despite being surrounded by delicious food 12 hours a day, and eating lots of it.

If you weren't satisfying the bellies of hungry Londoners, what would you be doing now? 

Probably still staring at spreadsheets or energy data trying to remember how to do a Index/Match formula and wondering how long it is until lunch.

Billy Smokes also serves veggie food. But you're a meat company. How does that work? 

That's a great question. I think barbecue means a lot of different things to different people and that's just the way it is. I found this out in the US where, in some states the word barbecue actually means Pork. And what we call a barbecue (the metal thing in the garden) is actually a grill. To me, barbecue is about cooking with wood, and that can be meat, fish or vegetarian food. With my sustainability background, I am well aware of the environmental impacts of farming and the meat industry so it's important that we a conscious of this and don't just offer piles of meat. 

You've just opened your second outlet. What's in store for meat lovers?

Yep, we've just opened a short-term pop up with Brewdog at the Punk Kitchen in Angel. It's a great concept where they are hosting exciting Streetfood vendors for a month at a time. We'll be serving up some of our tried and tested favourites as well as some new sharing plates and brunch dishes to fit in with the area. It is a great opportunity for us to try out some new things as they have a great kitchen there.

What advice would you give to those who haven't quite given a firm 'YES' to their ideas? 

My advice would be: answer your calling and make your mark. I'm a believer that you more often regret the things you don't do than the things you do do.

Any websites/books/people you would recommend for inspiration?

All my inspiration came from creative and entrepreneurial friends as well as food heroes of mine. Try to meet and engage with any people who inspire you, and steer clear of naysayers and negative influences. 


Author: Sarah Allison

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Do you have a YES moment to share? No idea is too small or journey too short. We welcome all stories old and new - share yours at SayYesMore.