It is said that every hero and villain has an origin story. If that is true this would be mine.
Draper’s BBQ or DBQ started life in 1973 as Draper’s Pit Barbecue, born from the hard work and dedication of my grandfather, James Draper. Located in the little town of Bardwell, Kentucky, I spent my formative years playing hide and seek in that smokey dining room. Grandpa’s small restaurant in that small town became known as one of the go-to places for barbecue in Western Kentucky. I will never forget the smell of the pit. The smell of smoldering oak and salt rubbed pork slowly cooking…that’s a childhood memory which is the smell of home to me.
My family learned that owning a bbq restaurant made for very demanding work. They all stuck it out as long as they could but finally, in the early 80’s closed the doors of the restaurant. It was a difficult decision, but thankfully, was not the end of our cooking. Family and friends still got treated to great bbq on special occasions. That’s where I learned what bbq is all about….love. You can’t cook anything for twenty hours and not love what you’re doing. That is what made my grandfather’s bbq different from anywhere else. Every single bite was about love, dedication and just doing things right.
When I turned 17 I joined the Navy. My first Sunday in boot camp was my 18th birthday. I was sent to Virginia Beach for my specialized training and then was assigned a year later to an aircraft carrier in Japan. We traveled all over the Pacific ocean and that is where the rest of my culinary roots formed. Experiencing first hand so many different cultures and flavors so quickly taught me that honest flavors, layered together and balanced always make for the best food no matter the culture, country or ingredients.
My grandfather passed away not long after I separated from the Navy after two enlistments. This sparked my passion for barbecue and cooking once again. I wanted to find a way to commune with him and still feel him around in some way. I started teaching myself how to cook based on what I remembered seeing him do as a child and measuring myself by the memory of the food he created. This ended up with me creating a revamped Drapers BBQ and launching a series of rubs and sauces. As things grew I was invited to cook on world championship teams and work with large companies and famous teams to help them develop their flavor profiles.
To paraphrase a scene from the Jon Favreau movie "Chef." Everything good that has happened in my life is because of this. I might not do everything great in my life. I'm not perfect. I'm not the best husband and I'm not the best father. But I'm good at this. I want to share this with you. I want to teach you what I learned. I get to touch peoples lives with what I do and it keeps me going and I love it.