It was literally one of those split second decisions,” David Carter laughs. “I saw the energy in the crowd at Street Feast in Dalston Yard, and it was one of those nights you go home and you’d do it tomorrow. I woke up the next morning and bought a 30 grand smoker I had my eye on.”
Now 18 months into setting up Smokestak, his gamble has paid off. Carter regularly orders hundreds of kilos of pork and beef ribs (up to five and a half tonnes over the weekend they supply Glastonbury festival) to feed the smoker – and his many customers. Those customers keep coming back for more, mainly because Barbados born David Carter knows a thing or two about smoking meat. “When the fats caramelise with the rubs, sugars and sauces, that’s your flavour,” he says.
It’s a far cry from the rarified world of Claridges or the Savoy (Carter was general manager of both restaurants). “I evolved away from fine dining because I needed a bit more happening around me,” he says. With two London sites and a multitude of festivals to cater for, he certainly got his wish. In the start-up phase, “we were probably doing around 120 hours a week, and 40 hours straight. When making your own dream happen, the buck starts and stops with you.” Not that Carter is ruled by finances. “Numbers second,” he says, “the less you know about the numbers the better so it doesn’t obscure your thought process. It’s the finished product that counts.”
Now when Carter is hiring, he’s “resigned to the fact no-one’s going to know as much as we do – not in an arrogant way, it’s just we’ve learnt so much.” Aspiring BBQ professionals go to Carter to train in the art of smoking meat. “Our ethos is, ‘don’t hold back anything’.” Carter believes in throwing yourself in at the deep end. “If there’s something you believe in, back it,” he says. With Smokestak, dedication has paid off. “Every event has done better than the previous one, and everything (money, time, energy, expertise) has gone back in.”Reuse content