Masters of the Pit: Spicewine Cookers
January 5, 2012
As part of our ongoing “Masters of the Pit” series, we catch up with Jay Curry, founder of Spicewine Ironworks in Columbia, MO.
First of all, Jay, how about a little background on the members of Spicewine Ironworks. Are you originally from Missouri?
I have lived in Missouri most of my life. I lived in New Orleans for 3 years and worked as a restaurant manager. My brother has lived in Missouri all his life as did our other partner Randy. Steve was a food and beverage manager and Randy worked with pork producers after his graduation from college.
So is barbecue and grilling something you grew up around?
I really got into grilling while in college and advanced to BBQ a little later in life.
What’s your earliest outdoor cooking related memory (grandparents grilling, dad grilling on vacation, holidays, etc)?
My best memory as a child was the smell of burning charcoal from the neighbors’ houses. It was the smell of summer to me.
Any idea when you really got bitten by the barbecue bug?
There was a local contest that myself and a friend of mine decided to enter. We took 1st. place in pork and we were hooked from then on.
So you’ve got a background in restaurant management, correct? How’d did you get started in the food business?
My first real job was in fast food when I was 16 years old. I stayed in the restaurant business for the next 13 years.
And you’ve also been welding for quite a while. Was that originally a hobby or a profession?
My very first job was at the welding shop that I now own. I was 12 years old and spent the summer painting gas cylinders for some spending money. After I left the restaurant business I went to work for my father at the welding shop as his buyer. I learned how to weld and have been doing it now for years. When my father retired, I bought the business.
So when did you decide to combine your restaurant and barbecue expertise with your welding skills and start making pits?
I started building a cooker for myself because I was very frustrated with the little R2D2 smoker that I had at the house. I wanted to build one that was insulated as to not be affected by the weather and use less fuel. Before it was built, I had 3 or 4 customers wanting me to build them one. Long story short, it was 3 years before I got one at my house.
Do you recall the first smoker you built from scratch? Any special features, unforeseen obstacles or technical issues, etc.?
I built a trailer model cooker out of a 250 gallon fuel tank. It was big and bulky, but served its purpose. It wasn’t fuel efficient or good in bad weather.
And that led to the creation of Spicewine Ironworks nearly 8 years ago. Where’d the name come from?
The name is a combination of me and my brother’s last name (Curry, aka ” Spice”) and our other partner’s last name which is Ham, aka “Swine.” Combine the two and you have “SpiceSwine” or “Spicewine.” Clever huh???
I love it! So, obviously your cookers are very distinct and have quite the loyal following. What in your mind sets your pits apart from others in the marketplace?
I have always said that there are a lot of great cookers out there. We build our cookers the way things used to be manufactured in this country. We build them heavy duty and built to last. We offer any paint color the customer wants. We now offer “Old School ” metal flake to really set them off.
I’ve personally always admired the paint jobs on the Spicewines I encounter on the BBQ circuit and owners seem to take real pride in keeping them looking brand new. Any particular ones out there that are your favorites or you were most proud of when completed?
We have many Spicewine owners that have had great success with their cookers. Jimmy Brod from Florida has won many Grand Championships on his Spicewine cookers. He likes them so well, he is now a distributor for Spicewine Cookers. Jeff Stith cooked the Jack Daniels this year on his Spicewine and has also won his share of grand championships and the list goes on.
So what’s next for Spicewine Ironworks? Any new models, accessories, etc. in the pipeline?
Who knows! I have tossed around the idea of opening a contract bottling company to help folks just starting out with getting their product to market. I continue to come up with new BBQ sauces and rubs and also do private labeling for restaurants and fund raising organizations.
Thanks so much for your time and we wish you nothing but continued success.