Every year I visit numerous cities and towns across the United States to either host live cooking shows or shoot video segments. On each trip, I build in extra time to visit schools or volunteer at local charities. My philosophy is simple. If you are given blessings, share. If you don’t have money to give, dedicate your time or natural talents. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Making a life dedicated to giving is personified by an astonishing couple I was fortunate to meet last year in St. Louis. Smoki O’s is a humble barbecue joint in St Louis run by Earline and Otis Walker.
Have you ever met someone whose presence greeted you before you even had the chance to shake his or her hand? When the production crew and I entered Smoki O’s, as part of a video assignment, there was instant chemistry. It’s that feeling when you have pins and needles without truly knowing why. It’s an empathic reaction to pure kindness, gentleness, and spirituality.
With a simple hug at reception and some quick chatting, I knew this video segment was no longer about barbecue. My visit to Smoki O's was a gift, which inspired a blog on how we all can change our communities by investing kindness. Giving is the truest gift to heal others while also healing ourselves. Do good. Feel good.
HIGHER PURPOSE, HIGHER EDUCATION
The Walker’s blessed me by sharing the story of their mission, which goes way beyond just serving incredible barbecue. Earline and Otis have created a remarkable environment providing young people from their local community valuable job experience and life lessons. The barbecue they serve up daily is not only fuel for the body, it’s food for the soul, and the launching pad for a brighter tomorrow.
“Purpose creates life,” Earline said to me. “Because of our commitment to the community, we wanted to do something more than barbecue. We wanted to provide opportunities for young people to learn and develop job skills. We have graduated 16 youth through Smoki O’s that have gone on to college. We provided supplemental funds in order to provide them with books.”
The Walker’s take the time to nurture employees, most of whom have never had a job before. Then they generously dig into their own pockets to help support those same kids when they go to college. Earline says it’s not about the money. Something much more important than revenue has kept Smoki O’s in business for nearly 20 years.
“I’m a very spiritual person,” she said. “Otis will tell you that I have devotion every morning before I start my day. God believed in service and love. Service and love is what God is about, so that’s what we are about.”
I was fighting back tears as Earline genuinely spoke about how important it is for her and Earl to
teach their young employees about manners, respect, and providing excellent service. As unsung heroes, the Walker’s enlightened vision leaves footprints on many hearts. The kids being assisting have a real opportunity to live to their best potential and become future advocates of kindness. Who doesn’t benefit when given the gifts of love and support?
As I had mentioned, the Walker’s were only meant to be highlighted in a food segment so apart from personally inspiring me, I can testify the food at Smoki O’s is delectable. In all my years of traveling and cooking, I had never tasted pig snout (pronounced “snoot” in St. Louis). I have eaten the cheeks, brains and other less popular parts of our porcine pals.
Never the honker.
What does snoot taste like? It tastes like crackling with a little more maturity. The thinly sliced, seasoned and grilled slices of crispy goodness are nothing like I expected, and I recommend you give them a try. If you’re a wee bit unsure, let me leave you with this final thought about snoot: It has more flavor than bacon. I swear to you!
All the food at Smoki O’s was delicious, but I must give a special shout-out to the homemade potato salad. Don’t miss it!
If you have the opportunity to visit the Walker’s at Smoki O’s in St. Louis. Tell them Chef Jon sent you. You will leave feeling with a rejuvenated spirit and a happy belly.