Think about your favorite hobby. Now, imagine that hobby replacing your day job. Sounds like a dream, right? For business owners Tony and Sheryl Valentine, this dream is a reality. The expert grillers now run Lubbock’s favorite outdoor grilling store, and they absolutely love what they do. Whether you’re already into grilling or wanting to learn more, their shop – The Outdoor Chef – is the place you need to check out for all of your grilling needs. We spoke to Sheryl to learn more.
How did you and your husband get started at The Outdoor Chef?
“The previous owner of The Outdoor Chef knew us through competition barbecue cooking. We cook through IBCA, International Barbecue Cookers Association. They sanction cook-offs all around Texas and beyond. This is something we participate in as a sport, basically. When the owner was ready to retire, he approached us to buy the business from him. He knew we would take care of it well because we know the products and know this business.”
Did you always want to run an outdoor grilling store?
“I was a nurse for 26 years, and while I loved it, things aren’t the same as they used to be. Grilling was something Tony and I did on the the side for fun, and now we get to do it every day. Most times, people have a job they go to that they dread, so being able to turn my hobby into a career has been the best thing.
Another highlight has been our relationships with customers. I had a guy come in and pull me to the side at a cook-off. He said, ‘Remember when I came in, and you showed me how to cook a brisket, and you showed me that recipe? I went from zero to hero with my family. Now I’m awesome.’ Getting feedback like that is really encouraging.”
(Especially if you've been grilling for years, THIS is the place to be, grill masta.)
sounds like there is more to The Outdoor Chef than just grilling equipment. What else do you do?
“We do cooking classes. Usually it’s a grilling class or a smoking class, and we’ll have anywhere from 15 to 30 people. We do those more often during the winter hours in cooler weather, but we did one recently in May in honor of National Barbecue Month. We’re pretty successful in the barbecue competing world, so you’ll definitely get good instruction from us.”
What do you like about the Lubbock community?
“I went to high school here, but then moved away for 25 years. Coming back, I was surprised to see how much Lubbock had grown. While it’s gotten bigger, the people have stayed the same: they are always friendly. I like that, in Lubbock, when customers walk in the door, I know who they are and they know me. You can have a better rapport that way. I like being able to provide that personalized customer service.
For example, someone walked in today who has had his grill for 10 years and was in need of new parts. I was able to get him exactly what he needed. On all grills we sell, we track the warranty and we carry parts, so you know when you walk in here you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for. That’s something you can’t get at the big stores.”
What can we see from your business moving forward?
“My goal is to move locations in the next few years so we can expand. I’d like to expand our product offerings as well. There are always new grills and barbeque equipment, and we want to offer as much as we possibly can. We’d also like to bring other products that can compliment outdoor kitchens in addition to barbecue products. We’d also like to have a little more visibility and move to areas where the town is growing.”