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Community Highlights: Meet Kavin Chambers of Smoked Artisan Barbecue

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kavin Chambers.

Hi Kavin; so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a classic Gen X Latchkey kid. Growing up in a single-parent home where my father traveled for his job, I was often left to fend for myself. Cooking became a necessity once the love of cereal wore off. In those days, everything was an experiment. Being creative kept things interesting. Looking back, I can certainly say that it was during that time a deep passion for cooking was born. Like most people, life ran its course over the next few decades, and I found myself in the grind of corporate life. Eventually, circumstances would lead me to embrace the world of entrepreneurship. After many successful years with various ventures, COVID-19 brought everything to a screeching halt. My digital marketing firm lost 45% of its clients after many small businesses shut down.

I’m fortunate to have a wife who supports my dreams and encourages me to follow my heart – no matter the risk. At that moment in 2020, my wife suggested I take a leap and start a business based on what she knew was one of my passions – food. And Smoked Artisan Barbecue was born. Using my knowledge of digital marketing, I started building the brand on social. I posted pictures of dishes I created. I shared recipes I had been developing over the years, and before I knew it, we were working our first event at Shrewsbury Nights with a line 50 people deep for two straight hours – we got killed that night. It was a complete train wreck, but we learned a lot.

Things have taken off from there, and we have gotten much better. We have carved out a niche as the leading barbecue catering company in St. Louis, and we continue to serve many new creations at events around town. I get a lot of guidance from my longtime friend, Emily, who has been in the business for many years and is incredibly talented. She recently took her talents to Florida, but she continues to mentor me and listen to my gripes every week. She’s an invaluable resource and a cherished friend. Everyone needs that one person who holds the knowledge and is willing to walk with you on your journey.

Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Every new business faces challenges. With my experience as a small business owner, I expected hurdles and struggles. I’m still very new to the food and hospitality industry, and each day brings a new mistake. Mistakes don’t bother me. Not learning from them certainly does, so I welcome them every day. This allows the business to improve rapidly.

As you know, we’re big fans of Smoked Artisan Barbecue. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about the brand?
At Smoked, we seek to challenge the status quo in today’s barbecue industry by stepping away from the competition circuit and returning to the roots of America’s most popular cuisine. Where we all gather to share laughs and stories and create memories that last forever.

Over the past decade, our divisive political climate has driven us apart in many ways. Through deliberate efforts I believe I can help change that sad reality simply by assisting people to come together to share a meal. Maybe spend some time with someone they may not normally interact with in life. Naïve? Perhaps. But I’m OK with that.

Our catering business allows us to work with a broad spectrum of groups. From a high school senior celebrating their graduation to a child’s first communion to a 50th birthday party to a celebration of a life well lived – we get the great honor of being a part of a multitude of joyous occasions. That does feel good.

With our mobile kitchen, we get to be inside the action at events all over the St. Louis area. Unlike a standard food truck, we can fully interact with the people. They get to watch us prepare their food, and we get to be a part of the fun. Live cook events are where we blossomed as a team. We have so much fun being with people and getting their feedback on whatever we created for that day. It pushes us to be better and to grow. And quite honestly, it’s a giant rush to watch someone take that first bite – filled with anxiety, hope, fear, pride, and ultimately pure joy. It never gets old.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
We’re excited about the upcoming holiday season. Along with the holiday party catering we’ll be doing, we will also be doing a Pop-Up in the West County Mall food court from December 19th – December 24th. It’s an opportunity for people to purchase some of our sauces, rubs, and Smoked swag. We look forward to serving people a wide range of new dishes, and I welcome the challenge of testing ourselves in a different setting than we are accustomed to. In 2021 I created Barbecue Block Parties to bring people back together after the global pandemic forced us all into isolation for far too long. We have hoped to help foster meaningful connections between neighbors by sharing good conversations, laughter, and (obviously) great food. Over the past two years, we’ve done about 50 block parties all over town. In 2023, we want to take things up a notch, so we are hoping to partner with other mobile vendors that can help us make these events something extraordinary. I am incredibly partial to locally owned small businesses, which is our focus for future collaborations. Additionally, we are looking to make outdoor pop-up dinners that have a more intimate feel. Right now, we are actively seeking unique outdoor venues that offer a peaceful and inviting setting.

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