Transplanted grillmaster is expanding catering business

This article was written by Arika Herron at the Greenfield Daily Reporter.

Ford and his wife, Jeni, moved to Greenfield in 2008 to be closer to Jeni’s mother who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Barbecue started as a hobby for Grant Ford. While living in California, Ford joined two friends to start a barbecue team, called BBQ’n Fools. More than a decade later, Ford was able to turn that hobby into a full-blown business.
The move from barbecue enthusiast to businessman wasn’t exactly by choice.
Ford and his wife, Jeni, moved to Greenfield in 2008 to be closer to Jeni’s mother who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“I knew it was the right thing to do,” Ford said.
But, it wasn’t easy. Ford left behind his award-winning barbecue team and more than three decades of friends and family.
To keep himself busy in his new home, Ford started cooking for charity events – keeping with a dedication to philanthropy that followed him from California when he would cook for the troops.
“It’s really important to me to be involved with local charities,” Ford said. “If everybody did something, the community would be a really nice place, so I try to set a precedent.”
He has done charity events for United Way, the Hope House, the Kenneth Butler Soup Kitchen and other local nonprofits.
But when Jeni lost her job, Ford had to scale back the philanthropic endeavors and figure out how to contribute additional income to the family.
“I never thought of it as a business, but I took what I had here and took it to the next level,” he said.
So three years ago, BBQ’n Fools Catering was born. And it has taken off. During the busy summer months, Ford is providing food for as many as six events each week – sometimes for more than one event on the same day. He offers several catering options, from just dropping off the food to serving the entire event and cleaning up afterwards.
Ford offers more than a dozen meat options for catering service as well, which he hopes will keep business booming year round.
“There are four or five months out of the year where people don’t think about barbecue,” he said. “I’m working really hard now to try and make up for when there’s no work.”
But just as his catering business has taken off, another has slowed to a standstill. When Ford was still in California, his barbecue team started an online business selling sauces and dry rubs. After more than 10 years, Ford said that the site, bbqnfools.com, will close by Sept. 1.
Ford said that as orders slowed the company didn’t have the capital to sustain a nationwide business.
So he’s looking a little closer to home for his next business opportunity.
He’s started by expanding his cooking to more than just catering.
For the past few months, Ford has been cooking and selling individual meals at the Greenfield Moose Lodge. A Moose member, Ford rents kitchen and banquet hall space each week, allowing nonmembers to stop by the lodge and pick up a variety of meals, either to eat in the banquet hall or take to go. It also gives Ford a chance to reach wider audiences outside of just the people attending catered events.
Each week he offers a selection of different meats, like pulled pork, chicken wings, ribs and others. The choices of meats, sides and desserts change from week to week but prices stay pretty moderate. A full meal costs between $6 and $12.
It’s been a good test run. Ford said he has thought about one day opening his own barbecue restaurant and cooking at the lodge has given him a taste of that world – cooking outside of competition and catering. Although he likes what he sees so far, it’s also given him a dose of reality. Attendance Tuesday nights has varied wildly, from more than 60 one week to just 15 another. He realized quickly that too many nights of just 15 of fewer customers could spell disaster for a new restaurant.
So for now, he plans to keep cooking and keep learning.
“The best barbecue is the kind people like to eat,” Ford said. “My job is to make that mine.”

Photo provided From hobby to full time job: When he first moved here, Grant Ford volunteered his grilling skills for local fundraisers. Now he’s been forced to grill to support his family. So far, so good, Ford says.

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