CHECK YOUR pantry’s seasonings, and you may very well find a bottle with a perky, pantless pig smiling back at you. The journey of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub to a place at your table is seasoned with seeking, stretching, and serendipity.
Dictionary.com defines serendipity as an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. Byron Chism’s desirable discoveries came as he followed his heart.
“I trusted God for my future and learned to trust and follow my heart. I think my heart and intuition are God talking if you believe that. The odds were not for me to be successful; for me to get off the ground is like the Hindenburg,” said Chism.
An in-depth 2023 YouTube documentary, “Barbecue Dreams…The Butt Rub Story,” follows Chism from his boyhood Texas home to his corporate headquarters in Florida and his Mulberry, Tennessee second home.
He arrived at the University of South Alabama without a dream of his own. Unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, he graduated with only one hint of his future direction — his love of cooking.
“I didn’t even realize I liked to cook, but by the time I graduated college, I was a pretty good cook,” Chism said.
Looking for direction, he silenced the outside voices and paid attention to his own.
“All I knew was what I didn’t want to do,” he said. “There was a big list of things. Then one day, I asked, ‘What really lights you up?’ I saw I had a short list: dancing, cooking, and the beach. I love to two-step, but I had to do something for a living, so I decided to move to the beach and try my hand at cooking.”
The ingredients in Chism’s recipe for success began In Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
“When I got settled in and started going to church there, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. Soon, I started cooking and knew I was on the right track. I never regretted my journey from that point on,” he said.
His next-door neighbor there, Jim Norton, introduced him to barbecue.
“He taught me how to barbecue, and as we got into it, I wanted my own cooker. We went to a scrap yard and got all the pieces — an old propane tank and wheels off a lawn mower — for 11 cents a pound. I’d work 12 hours a day in the restaurant and come home and fire that thing up. I’d spend all day with three chickens and a stack of wood,” Chism said.
As his culinary skills grew, so did his fascination with barbecue and its history, ultimately leading to the creation of his own seasoning, now available in over 8,000 stores.
Follow the video as Bad Byron’s Butt Rub weaves its way around the country and the world through barbecue cook-off championships. The cook-off trail often led through Franklin, Lincoln, and Moore Counties, and Chism needed a home base for his equipment. Finding the perfect spot in the Mulberry community in Lincoln County, the Butt Ranch Barbecue Theme Park became his second home.
“Lincoln County is always fresh. I’m here three or four weeks at a time, and then I choose to go to the office [in Florida],” Chism said. “My mother lives in Mobile, Alabama, and I spend some time with her, then I just like to circle back here. I’m refreshed, renewed, and recharged, and I never really get bogged down here. I keep rebooting.”
Chism knew when he got to Lincoln County that he wanted a new dog after losing his dog of 17 years, Jake. At the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Animal Shelter, Chism met Sadie, who was about to be put down. The shelter workers were heartbroken at the thought and thrilled when Chism took her home.
He said, “They all loved her and didn’t want to see her get put down, so I saved her. She’s been such an incredible dog, and I always felt like the animal shelter gave me such a great thing. I learned enough to know their biggest challenge is funding, so I started raising money through Brisket & Bluegrass, and it’s been a good relationship. We got dogs adopted to different places and raised some good money for them. It feels good. It’s such a great setting [here] with the great outdoors, food, music, and a good cause.”
The next Brisket & Bluegrass is September 23 at Chism’s Butt Ranch Barbecue Theme Park. The annual event is the perfect blend of everything important in Chism’s life.
This year, Chism will be inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame®. According to americanroyal.com, the ceremony will honor three individuals who, by extraordinary achievement and service, have made outstanding and significant contributions to barbecue. Induction into the Barbecue Hall of Fame is barbecue’s top honor and recognizes the substantial influence on the advancement of barbecue.
While it appears to be the pinnacle of Chism’s success, he knows there will always be more to the story.
“It’s never where you’re going; it’s the journey because there’s no one place where you just arrive. It’s a false, imaginative place,” he said. “I was truly lost trying to find what I was supposed to be doing, and it was very uncomfortable. When I stopped listening to everybody’s advice and started following my heart and trusting God, the ship started sailing in the right direction. And I think that’s probably the most important thing to think about.”
But where does he go from here?
“For the future, I see no big changes, just more of the same. I’m where I want to be, and I think I’ll just continue along the path,” said Chism. GN