The “Behind the Smoke” podcast where the hosts “share BBQ war stories, raw and trimmed” is the brainchild of Shawn Walchef, owner of Cali Comfort BBQ, and Derek Marso, owner of Valley Farm Market and Valley Farm Market BBQ Shack, both in Spring Valley, California.

The podcast is the latest chapter of a friendship based largely on a shared passion for sports and barbecue.

A desire to know more about the people behind the barbecue prompted the creation of the “Behind the Smoke” podcast in May 2017. “We found this was a good way to give back to the barbecue community and talk about real things that happen,” Walchef says. “We talked to amateurs, competition teams and the media about the life and business of barbecue and what happens in and around the making of it.”

The popular podcast initially started as somewhat of a dare. Walchef, who is known for pushing the envelope, came to Marso with the idea of a podcast about barbecue. Walchef saw the podcast as an easy way to get the story of the barbecue community heard. By the time Marso came around to the idea, Walchef had already booked the first guest. After an admittedly rough first episode, Marso was on board, converting an employee breakroom above the Valley Farm Market butcher store into a podcast studio. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Transactions and getting people in the door is not the end goal,” Marso says. “It’s about creating relationships and learning, becoming friends and sharing the lessons learned along the way.”

“Behind the Smoke” is not just encouraging Walchef and Marso, it’s also inspiring and connecting people from around the world. The pair regularly receive pictures of what other people are barbecuing via social channels with daily updates from fellow competitors and barbecue enthusiasts from as far away as Israel. Another benefit of the podcast’s popularity is the opportunity to earn California barbecue the level of respect Marso and Walchef believe it deserves.

“We want to make the best barbecue,” Walchef says. “Barbecue brings people together and that’s increasingly important when there’s so much division around. Barbecue is about coming to the table and finding a common ground.”

Topics of the podcast often emerge from what’s going on in the life of the two, such as the birth of Walchef’s child. When asked about their favorite podcasts to date, Marso cited an episode with Ari Segal, president and COO of the Immortals, a professional esports team and former COO of the Arizona Coyotes hockey team.

“This is an example of someone who is not changing who they are, and it gives hope to others if they too get big, they can stay true to themselves,” Marso says.

Walchef named one of his favorites a podcast created at the National Barbecue Association where they were able to interact with other podcasters. Calling the experience “very humbling,” Walchef saw this as another example where the conversations before, during and after the podcast can make long-term connections with others and add value.

Look for the September issue of MEAT+POULTRY magazine to read more about the “Behind the Smoke” podcast.