Greg Chapman has "drive and desire to cook barbecue." If you find that funny or strange, read on.
Six or seven years ago, he got the preacher's permission to announce a Boston Butt sale to benefit the church's building fund. "I didn't even have a cooker, but I felt it was what the Lord wanted me to do. After church, Randy Byers walked up and said I could use his cooker if I needed one. That was answered prayer."
Answered prayer and drive and desire across the following years have built Rocky Hill Bar-b-que into a thriving business and community service that has fed thousands and has been honored by Innervision in Charlotte to feed attendees at the NBA All-Star game, an NCAA Division II basketball tournament and the ACC tournament.
According to its website, Innervision works in areas of recovery from substance abuse and mental health. It just so happens those are two issues that mean a lot to Chapman and give him a lot of his drive and desire. A large number of food vendors applied for spots on the Innervision lot, but only eight were chosen. It's a big deal.
Although he felt led to that first sale to benefit his church, Barn Ministries, his passion really caught fire when he and his wife, Stacy, traveled to Atlanta to feed the homeless.
"We fixed between 1500 and 2000 bag lunches. We went everywhere, under bridges, into ditches. One guy had a little three-foot platform that he called home. That's all he had. We went into one neighborhood where heroine addiction was so bad, ten out of eleven people were so strung out they had no idea we were there. That trip did it. From then on, I knew the Lord was calling me to feed people," Chapman said. "We left there in tears."
Stick-burning, wood-fired barbecue takes time. Often Chapman will stay up all night cooking. "But when I see the smiles on the faces of people who eat our food, it's all worthwhile."
The first three years Rocky Hill operated primarily as a community service, putting on fundraisers for nonprofit groups and churches.
In the past three years, it has grown to serve business events, family reunions, weddings, and other commercial functions, like the All-Star game and the other two basketball tournaments in Charlotte.
"My dream is to do this full time," Chapman said.
Would his boss at Pike Electric be okay reading that in the paper? He grinned and said, "He knows. I love my job, but this is where my heart's at."
Chapman has worked for Pike for 19 years.
He and Stacy live with their five children in Bostic.
"I manage the children," Stacy said of their crew that ranges in ages from 17 to 8. The children were with them in Charlotte but stayed with Stacy's college roommate and her husband, Bobbie and James White, while their parents worked around the clock for 44 hours. Actually the serving and cooking schedule was 44 hours, but both parents did get some sleep.
"It takes an army to do this," Chapman said of the two crews, day and night, that staffed the food trailer, cooking and serving. He included the White family in his praise for all the help. "I've got a very strong team."
Stacy said she loves the food business because she gets to meet with all kinds of people. "I have a real heart for people."
"You cannot find traditional style barbecue like this anywhere anymore," Chapman said of his recipe that includes 14 herbs and spices and three sugars: brown, white, and honey powder. Of the honey powder, he said, "They don't sell that at Walmart. I have to order that."
Some of his recipes are 70-80 years old, "written on notebook paper." He credits grandparents on both sides of his family. His paternal grandparents were Clay and Faye Chapman and his maternal grandmother Letha Smith were all great cooks. Since he grew up exposed to his grandpa's cooking, "I've always had a desire to do this."
The recipes include instructions like, "A little bit of this and that. I don't measure anything. That's where taste and texture come from. People are blown away by the tenderness and juiciness. We had a big success at the Ellenboro Fair."
"We make our own sauce and dry rub," Chapman said.
The menu also includes wings and traditional cut fries.
The crew also cooks brisket and ribs. "When we cook beef ribs they're gone in a half-hour."
He had particularly high praise for Kathryn Sheets with the Rutherford, Polk, McDowell District Health Department.
"She doesn't know it, but when I started to build this trailer, I had no idea what I was doing. She helped me so much. I couldn't have done this without her help and advice," Chapman said.
Rocky Hill got its name from the hill where the family grew up.
Chapman says, "It was nothing but rock. It wouldn't even grow grass."
Research for this story also included a conversation with traditional herbalist and soap maker, Teresa Price. She said carrying on traditions and legacies are a big part of Rutherford County culture and a great joy to readers of Rutherford Weekly. Look for a story about her down the road.
Pat Jobe can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.