How do you make barbecue even better? Let us introduce you to Smokin Hope, a non-profit based in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2018 the organization has fed over 1,200 homeless and at-risk Phoenicians cookout-style barbecue meals with big plans in the works to exceed that amount.
Driven by a desire to spread joy and sow hope within the community, 'one bbq at a time' - founder Jonathan Jones sat down with us to explain the mission and vision of the organization and dish (pun intended) on what it means to be a real grill master.
What is Smokin Hope, and what does it mean to you?
Smokin Hope is our creative way to spread hope and positivity through the love of delicious barbecue. It’s bigger than BBQ. It’s about amplifying voices and changing the narrative. My hope is that people will see what we’re doing and feel inspired to get out and support their communities.
When did the idea for Smokin Hope come from? How did it come about?
My wife and I had planned a get-together back in late 2018. We cooked a ton of food in preparation for the big event. Plans fell through, and the majority of our guests couldn’t make it. I told my wife, “there’s no way we’re going to eat all these leftovers.” I tried to give out as much food as I could. A few weeks later, I got some friends together, and we did our first Smokin Hope event! We ended up feeding just under 100 people. After that, we were hooked!
How long have you been doing it?
We started in late 2018, and I formed our official nonprofit earlier this year!
What your mission/vision/goal for Smokin Hope?
We take pride in providing a cookout that everyone’s invited to. Our goal is to provide a bridge of support and assistance through resources within the community.
How did you get into BBQ? Have you always been into grilling?
Growing up, my family was always into cookouts and grilling up food. I used to always watch my dad, grandmother and uncles throw down on the grills. So, naturally, I’ve always had a knack for it, but I didn’t get serious about it until 6-7 years ago.
How has the pandemic affected/impacted what you do?
The pandemic has posed many challenges for us. We’ve had to become more mobile and efficient than ever. With that being said, I see it as a blessing in disguise. Anytime you’re faced with adversity, there’s an opportunity for growth. Our team has become stronger and we’ve really locked in on our purpose!
How can you tell the real from the fakes when it comes to grilling?
From the jump - If wood or charcoal isn’t the fuel source, it’s not BBQ. Another sign is if you see someone lifting the lid too often. A big no-no is cooking for a set amount of time. Instead of cooking to time, a true grill master will cook to temp or even feel.
You have to grill one thing and one thing only; what are you throwing down?
Ribs. Ribs. Ribs.
You can grill one meal for anyone in the history of the world; who are you throwing down for?
My great grandmother, Lenora Letcher. She was a civil rights activist, NAACP chapter leader, and cook for the community in Lincoln, NE. She left this earth when I was really young, but the short amount of time I spent with her has been a big part of my story. When it’s 3 am and I’m adding wood to the smoker, I can hear her sweet voice singing Sunday hymns.
What is the proper grilling attire?
Can’t go wrong with the following:
Top: Carhartt work tee
Bottoms: Chino shorts
Shoes: New Balance 993’s (or) Vans
One mistake that you see people making when they grill?
I see a lot of people cooking too hot and too fast. The rule I always refer people to is: It’s done when it’s done! Low and slow is the way to go!
What is the one thing that Smokin Hope has accomplished that you didn’t expect?
We’ve been working hard to get a Smokin Hope food delivery van up and rolling. Two weeks ago we were able to purchase a new Ford Transit! Next, we will be getting it wrapped and customized to fit our needs!
__Check out Smokin Hope on Instagram