Lisa and Matt Rooks – Love and Barbecue

by | Jan 2023

IT IS commonly believed among love experts that there are seven love languages: activity, appreciation, emotional, financial, intellectual, physical, and practical. For the happily married couple, Lisa and Matt Rooks, competition cooking and barbecue would be one they would tack on as an eighth. For them, barbecue and competition cooking has allowed them to support each other, enjoy new adventures, and create some delicious and award-winning recipes.

The love of barbecue didn’t come first in the relationship. That love was discovered later by accident. The couple would meet at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where Lisa worked, and Matt was coming in as an intern.

“They had told me an intern was coming, and they wanted me to take him under my wing,” explained Lisa. “He was coming from Massachusetts, and they wanted me to offer him the internship and show him around. When he arrived, we became fast friends. We were friends for a year, dated for a year, and then were engaged for 18 months. So basically, when he got there, we were always together.”

Lisa said she loved that Matt challenged her to get out of her comfort zone. An avid traveler, he was the complete opposite of her, and that is what she loved about him.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

He would get me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I had been in Tennessee all my life, and he had been a little bit of everywhere, so he was more of a traveler. We were good opposites for each other.”

In the spirit of adventure, the couple tried their hand at barbecuing. After taking third place in their first competition, the couple fell in love with competition barbecuing. At that time, Lisa said that Matt was given some sage advice from a few veteran competitors.

“Some old men pulled him over and asked him if he liked doing this and wanted to keep competing. When he answered yes, they told him that he needed to involve his wife if he wanted to stay married.

While Matt wouldn’t have thought of leaving his wife out, he took their wellmeant advice, and Lisa went from being involved to falling in love with the art of barbecue. She became the creator, and Matt took the role of the implementer.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

“I’m a creator, so I started creating the recipes and building on those, and then he would implement them. We made a good team together,” she added. “We enjoyed barbecue competitions so much that I started entering us in other food competitions. After a few minor adjustments, we became not just barbecue competitors but overall successful food competitors as well.”

Lisa said she feels that competing has only made their marriage stronger, and they have been able to enjoy something they both love to do.

“There are couples who don’t have the same hobbies. We both love doing this and enjoy working, creating, and implementing our ideas with each other,” Lisa said.

While the couple both have day jobs currently, they hope to barbecue full time after they retire. Moving to the area for barbecue, they are excited to share their talents with residents.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

“We already have our truck fully modified,” Lisa said. “We would like to be able to set up and serve at charitable events or fundraisers. We want to be able to give back to the community.”

Lisa said she is thankful she has a partner in Matt to pursue the things she loves and enjoy life with.

“We are happy traveling hundreds of miles or just sitting around doing nothing,” she said. “And he is such a thoughtful and romantic person. He’s always getting me things for barbecuing or for competitions. These are things that I don’t even ask for. He always keeps it interesting, and it never gets boring.”

For the secret recipe to their marriage, Lisa said it’s about putting each other first and making time for each other.

“I’m a faith-based person, and I hear many younger people say they put their kids first,” she said. “I put my religion first, then my husband, and a close third are my children. I followed what my parents have always told me: other than religion, your husband should be first. Also, try to establish some time for yourself together. You need to have that date night, at least. It may be just doing something at home, but it’s essential to make time for each other.” GN

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