Shade Tree Barbeque, owned by Danny Cruikshank is located in Jasper, Georgia. Nicknamed “The First Mountain City,” Jasper sits some 50 miles north of Atlanta. It’s also known as the Marble Capital of Georgia featuring unique pink marble as used at the historic Tate House. Jasper is located near several large acreage mountain neighborhoods such as Big Canoe, Bent Tree, and the Preserve at Sharp Mountain. We interviewed Danny about some of the dynamics of being in business.
LANG: What drove you to start this business?
DC: Friends wanting BBQ. And there was major need for supporting fundraising events. I did competitions at first.
LANG: Were you cooking/BBQing before you started your business?
DC: Yes, I started back when I was a mechanic in a car dealership, on customer appreciation days.
LANG: What makes your business unique?
DC: The quality of what we BBQ, but more, it’s my commitment to use Shade Tree Barbeque as a way to help people with fundraising. There are so many kids and families that have needs. So, I’m committed to doing what I can with BBQ events. We do almost all fundraisers and very little catering.
Fundraiser for Hugs for Hudson, fed over 1,200 people and raised over 85,000.00 for medical expenses.
LANG: How did you start the business?
DC: A few kids I coached in baseball liked my BBQ and I was asked to cater weddings. That goes back to 2006. I had ordered my first Lang, an 84, and I was on vacation in Daytona Beach when I got a surprise call from Ben Lang to tell me that my smoker was ready for pick up. The folks at Lang went out of their way to get my smoker ready because they were so busy at the time. In fact, when I got to the Lang plant, the paint was still a bit sticky but dried quickly in the 90 degree plus weather.
Lang Fleet 84 Deluxe and Twin 108 Deluxe
LANG: Tell us about your business with some detail.
DC: We have cooked for many large fundraisers that have made over $80,000 used for sick kids. This is my purpose in business, to help raise funds for those in need. My grandson has an illness and I put on a fundraiser which drew over 2,000 people in our town of Jasper and we fed 1,200 people. It’s a fantastic thing to see so many people in town come out to support a need. I was amazed to find a case of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce waiting in my driveway. I have transitioned from competitions to raising funds for kids. To make this work I keep a full-time job servicing generators.
First load of butts (of three loads) staggered the times for cooking at a fundraiser.
LANG: What were the pitfalls you didn’t expect?
DC: Out growing the smoker (laughs). It’s true, the Lang 84 that I bought new at Lang was no longer large enough to handle what we were producing (really large crowds). I always wanted a 108 Lang and started asking around. Someone I knew had one for sale, so I got a great deal on a Lang Twin 108 Deluxe with Twin Chargrill. I’m not sure, but as far as I know there are only three of these 108s around.
8 Racks of St. Louis Ribs for taste testing at a wedding venue.
LANG: What would you recommend to someone new in the business?
DC: First, it takes time to build your name. Also don’t cut corners, be excellent. Make double sure you have all the legalities, qualifications, permits and so on. It’s amazing how many people overlook this and then they find themselves in trouble.
LANG: What features do you like best about your Lang cookers?
DC: Very easy to use and it cooks great BBQ. It’s really consistent. The fact that the meat doesn’t make direct contact with the flames…that’s one of the benefits from the reverse flow that Lang designed.
Raising money and making people happy with great food.
LANG: What is your main goal as a chef?
DC: To help people get the funds they need when there are no resource for them. Many illnesses require unbelievable amounts of money for medicines, tests and care. We do the annual Sheriff’s Deep-Fried fundraiser and brought in $200,000 to support local kid’s charities. And we want people to enjoy themselves with BBQ.
Preparing to delight people and raise money
LANG: What are the favorite meals you like preparing?
DC: Steaks, brisket, crab legs, any BBQ stuff.
LANG: Are you in competition?
DC: We have not done any contests in a while. Most people don’t realize the high cost required to go to competitions. Plus, my commitment is to BBQ to raise funds. In 2006 when I started, we entered the Kansas City BBQ Society competition and of 85 teams we won third place for chicken. I’m not saying competitions aren’t fun or important, it just isn’t one of my goals right now.
LANG: What projects are you currently working on?
DC: Fundraising events for Gouchers Disease, and Cystic Fibroses.
LANG: What is the most important factor in competing?
DC: I would say don’t change everything just because you had a bad contest. Being consistent is what it takes to get your name called.
LANG: What do you enjoy most about competition?
DC: While I was involved it was the friendships you make.
LANG: What can you share about the BBQ community as a whole?
DC: Some of our best friends have come from BBQ contests. They will help before some family will. They also will help when it involves children, just call them and they come out to help.
LANG: Can you share a recipe with us?
DC: Cilantro-Pineapple Coleslaw
1-head of green cabbage, 1 medium red onion diced, 5 jalapenos diced and no seeds.
3 cups fresh diced pineapple with 3 tablespoons juice, juice of 2 limes 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar, and salt to taste ½ tablespoon, mix all items together and chill in fridge 30 minutes or longer. It’s great as a side or on pulled chicken tacos.