Guest blogger & colleague Alexander Dabney has a passion for grilling & the culinary arts.

As a small child of about 7 or 8 I remember sitting at the table with my mother who ran a catering business from our home, and happily helping in any way that I could. We would sit, talk, laugh and create wonderful meals for people to share with their families or enjoy at events. It never seemed like work but more of an art form. As I got older I even preferred cooking in the kitchen to going outside and playing ball. It was so rewarding to take ingredients, experiment and design something magnificent.

As I grew older and more responsible I was given the task of manning our grilling and smoking stations outside. I learned the art of what types or charcoal to use, wood, cooking temperatures, etc. I was only 17 but I felt I was an expert. I would go to fairs and festivals in the mountains of Northern, VA where my family grew up and watch the men of barbecue do their thing. Sometimes getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning to build a fire and start cooking.

The strangest thing was that for as great as I thought I was, I still felt that these guys were the professionals and that I should stay in the backyard where the rookies belonged. I thought, yeah we were a small time home catering business but that’s all it was, why would anyone take me seriously or why should I even dream of doing anything more than just creating meals and sharing my gift with a very small core of people that didn’t realize how much time, love and passion it took to meet the desires for a full stomach. The funny thing is, I knew that many of them, as I delivered these meals, took credit for the creations themselves….but I didn’t mind, I just enjoyed the process of creating.

In our cabinets and refrigerators you could find containers of rubs, sauces and dressings that I created. I sampled and used products from Kosmo Q. It was from their site and watching Destination USA television and meeting Moe Cason that I was introduced to the BBQ BOOM. I spent countless hours watching, learning, reading and listening to the stories of many people who started in their backyards for fun and how that passion became a means to fulfilling a dream.

I even got the courage to enter a BBQ competition and out of 50 contestants I came in 13th on my first try. Now I take my nephew, and 2 friends out on the weekends to challenge the best of the best in BBQ. My goal one day is to become a Grand Champion at the Memphis in May BBQ Competition.

Recently, my niece who works for Smithfield foods took me on a tour of their facilities and I enjoyed conversing with and asking questions from their “professionals”. The conversations inspired me to take culinary art classes at the local college to sharpen my skills and I even created my own Blueberry Bliss BBQ sauce. Strangely enough, I work in an office all day, but when I leave, the “Dr. of Barbecueology” comes out and begins to experiment!