Smokin’! Both the career of Eric Keating ’99 and the delectable comfort food his restaurants serve can be summed up using this one word. A co-owner, founder, and main “pitmaster” of the Local Smoke BBQ restaurant chain and catering outfit in New Jersey, Keating has helped to build a brand that the locals just can’t get enough of! “Our business was actually born out of a BBQ competition,” Keating explains. “In 2009, I entered the New Jersey State BBQ Championship in North Wildwood with my friends Steve and Loren Raab. We won and decided to open up a catering company featuring our award-winning recipes.”
Competing under the name Fat Angel BBQ, Local Smoke continued to grow and win competitions. Not only did they take the state championship in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2017, but they were invited three times to participate in the World BBQ Championship in Tennessee and won first place for their Texas-style brisket at the National BBQ Festival in Georgia (much to the chagrin of the Lone Star State’s pitmaster!). “We competed all over the country — from Nevada to Vermont to Alabama. At the same time, our base was growing through the catering business, and we saw an opportunity to put a stake in the ground.”
“In 2011, we opened our first two restaurants in Cookstown and Neptune City,” Keating comments. Now with a total of four restaurants and a booked catering schedule, the Local Smoke team doesn’t have as much time for competition.
With a degree in hospitality and tourism from Lynn University, experience behind the desk at resorts and hotels, and countless hours logged in every role of the restaurant business, Keating brings a wealth of practical knowledge and expertise to the team as they expand the Local Smoke BBQ enterprise. He also credits his time at Trinity-Pawling for the very critical skills he employs on a daily basis. “Trinity-Pawling is a great place to learn how to be successful. It’s where I became more organized and developed the necessary dedication and commitment that is needed to create a strong business. I’ll never forget my history class with Mr. (now Headmaster) Taylor — it was the hardest class I had, but I loved it and considered him a mentor all four years,” Keating relays. Hard work, dedication, and teamwork — throw in a couple of award-winning sauces on the side, and you have a game-changing combination in the world of ‘cue.
Local Smoke BBQ is indeed “smokin’,” and Keating and his team are rising above and beyond in these challenging times. Since last week, all LSBBQ locations began operating only with phone-in or online orders for curbside pickup, free delivery, or third party delivery.
In addition, Keating has initiated a “Help Feed Our Health Care Workers” campaign. With the motto, “BBQ makes everything a little bit better,” Local Smoke BBQ will be accepting $10 donations — they will match each donation and put together BBQ care packages to support their local New Jersey health care facilities: Riverview Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, Jersey Shore Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center – Southern Campus, and Local First Responders.
Thank you for helping to keep everyone safe and well-fed!
by Kate Vengrove