Jon Tapia doesn’t quite know when it happened.
At some point within the last five years things went from, “Come over and watch the game and oh yeah – Jon is barbecuing” to “Come on over because Jon is barbecuing and oh yeah – there’s a game on.”
It was subtle when it happened. Tapia, a 2004 graduate of Sierra High School, had picked up a smoker from his friend’s father that wasn’t using it anymore and cleaned it up to use for his cooking endeavors.
He read up on BBQ. He paid attention to things that he saw. And he experimented.
Last month he took his accumulated knowledge and his smoker – which he had upgraded by this point – to the Mitchell’s Modesto Harley Davidson 7th annual Rib Cook-Off.
He was facing stiff competition – people who tow their smokers behind their trucks and barbecue for a living.
And he walked out with a second place trophy.
“It was intimidating showing up with my little backyard BBQ smoker and these guys have their tow-behinds,” said Tapia, who has named his BBQ outfit ‘Stoke n’ Smoke BBQ’. “But then you start talking to the contestants and in the BBQ community, everybody wants to help one another. I busted my a — and put out the best food I can make and I got a second placed trophy.
“I felt good about what I could do going in there but it was so overwhelming – there were so many contestants. It wasn’t a feeling of being nervous but one of, ‘I’m finally here.’”
Tapia doesn’t want to stop with just a single trophy.
Now that he has validation that the food he’s been cooking for friends and family for years can stand the test of the public, he’s hoping that same public will help him buy the smoker of his dreams so that he can turn his love for barbecue into a business.
Tapia’s girlfriend started a crowdfunding effort on www.gofundeme.com to help make that dream a reality.
“I’d love to one day make a hole-in-the-wall BBQ place that just serves up what they make that day if they sell out that’s it like they have in Texas. Or maybe a food truck if that’s possible,” he said. “I just like cooking and hearing the responses of people that enjoy the foods that I put out.
“It’s all about the people and what they like and if I can make them happy then that makes me happy.”
To contribute to Tapia’s online crowdfunding effort to purchase a smoker that he can tow to BBQ events and use it to start a catering company or small restaurant visit www.gofundme.com/jonbbq.