Recently we sat down with Zowie Brooks from Heart Smoke & Soal to discuss their passion for outdoor cooking and an insight into the business.
So Zowie, tell us all about yourself, & how you and Gareth got into outdoor cooking?
Gareth and I have been together for 13 years and barbecuing, food and drink has always been a natural love of both of ours. We knew each other prior to this as teenagers we used to work at a local holiday resort. Gareth would carry out maintenance and building works and my first job working here was cleaning, servicing guests and cooking BBQ's for guests every week. Myself and another colleague would cook up for around 100 people. Bearing in mind that at this age I was around 17-18 years old with previous experiences cooking on the bbq was cooking at home on my Mothers back garden kettle bbq at the weekends! At the time this was a huge jump, although I loved it. The smell, the taste, atmosphere. I really looked forward to cooking in this environment, along with the alfresco dining experience. I would absolutely stink when I came home and I would be black from the cooking on the charcoal over the afternoon but for me that was part and parcel of it. From here my love for food, cooking and customer service grew. I went to university and studied a BA in Photography and Design Communication, from which I have traveled to many countries, taken many images and experienced different types of outdoor cooking. Gareth has spent the years since he left school in the building trade and environment and the past 13 years we have a Plumbing and Heating business called GRPH SW LTD in which we offer various skills covering Oil, Gas, renewables and specialist brands.
How did Heart Smoke Soal come to be?
The concept for us really started 5 years ago. We knew we wanted to use our love of outdoor cooking into a venture we just weren't sure which direction to go in. We originally looked at BBQ hire and offering a service to the customer, we then put this on the back burner as we then had my son who is now almost 5 years old! It was always at the back of our mind but you know what it's like life then carries on very fast. Last year as I'm sure it will have been for almost everyone was very different. In the first lockdown we came to the stage where most of our site work had come to a halt and customers were very nervous about having you in the home, apart from emergencies. We had gone from a 6 day week to a day and a half. This was scary to say the least. The work was there just everything kind of stopped and was put on hold. Gareth and I then sat down and started building our branding researching and testing products at home. Cooking, tasting and finding a premises. We have gone with high end brands, as ultimately our name is going to them, we like to use the products ourselves so we have the knowledge and expertise to offer advice and really know what we are talking about. We spend most weekends and evenings cooking outside and taking images of this and this feedback with customers is going down really well.
What is it about BBQs and Outdoor Cooking that makes it so special?
For us it's got to be the taste, you can't beat that barbecue flavour and experience of outdoor cooking. The relaxed atmosphere and a drink to sit with, wrapped up in a blanket enjoying a fire and just having a good chat. No computer or TV, just enjoying what you have at that moment.
What would be your ultimate alfresco cooking menu?
There are so many blimey. I would say some scallops cooked in shells for starters, a good lamb joint the main with sides. Recently we cooked up a chilli con carne over several hours in a dutch oven on a Kadai fire bowl just with rice and garlic pinwheels, this was delicious.
Any tips, tricks or words of wisdom for our customers to help get them started with cooking on wood?
Try your appliance and don't be scared, the more you cook on the wood the more you will get to know timings etc. Relax and enjoy it, I think you have to accept the fact that when you cook you have to gauge it by eye to a certain extent and go with your gut, and yes sometimes it may come out slightly different but that is the beauty of it. For me it's real cooking, back to basics.
Any events or information you would like to let our readers know about?
We had our official opening day here on Friday 25th June. We wanted to bring this element of cooking into the event so we had Sue Stoneman cooking outside. As our showroom is inside and our displays aren't live we really need this element. I think if people can get that whole sensory experience from the cooking it sells itself. The open day went down really well and we also raised funds for Devon Air Ambulance. We have another two open days this year being August 6th and 27th.
Visit www.heartsmokesoal.co.uk to find out more!
Heart Smoke & Soal have kindly given us a delicious recipe for you to try at home this weekend - Lamb shoulder with rosemary & garlic!