In 1999, When George Booth III opened Adventures in Heat, barbecue was still a Southern culinary specialty in Western New York.
Now it's practically a cultural movement, with its own shows on cable television.
During those years, Booth's store, at 10189 Main St. in Clarence, became one of the best places to get into barbecue. Long a barbecue fan himself, Booth became a sounding post for legions of local barbecue fans, including an assortment of competitive barbecue teams, the sort of barbecue enthusiasts who will take a three-day weekend to drive a thousand miles to pit their spare ribs against all comers.
"I've nurtured, advised and otherwise helped raw beginners [and] seasoned veterans with information, ideas and my little take on things," Booth said. He knows competitors from five of six teams on the most recent episode of Food Network's "Best in Smoke," he said.
Booth is also one of the organizers behind Oinktoberfest (Sept. 23-25 this year at the Great Pumpkin Farm, 11163 Main St., Clarence), one of the area's premier barbecue contests, and a barbecue caterer in his own right. His barbecue love means he's willing to chew the fat about issues like how to guarantee tender brisket. That's why some local barbecue nuts will tell you they don't mind paying for the smoking equipment at Adventures in Heat, because the advice is free.
>How did barbecue take off here?
"A lot of it is Food Network. That certainly has passed on the word that barbecue, pun intended, is hot."
>It's that simple?
"I tell people that barbecue is an all-American style of cooking, one of the few things we can tap into as our own, as opposed to other styles. It's not French influence, Latin style, Asian influence. It's all-American cooking, and people flock to it."
>Guys are buying smokers instead of a new set of golf clubs.
"It's a male hobby, mostly, that translates into good food for the family. You're in the backyard making people happy, cooking for your family, friends, even the neighbors."
>What's the most common mistake?
"Buying the wrong smoker, a cheap offset smoker or cheap big-box store water smoker."
>Do you really have to take classes?
"I've had beginners, who have never smoked in their life, buy a Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker, take it home and smoke that weekend."
>But does that mean their barbecue was any good?
"I've offered people who were skeptical, that if they followed my instructions and couldn't make it work, bring it back within 30 days and I'd give them 100 percent of their money. I've never had anyone bring one back."