My name is Kevin Taeyaerts, founder of The Backyard Smoker. When I’m not tending a fire, I’m usually in class. I am a senior advertising student at Drake University set to graduate in May of 2021. This website began as a class project but has grown into so much more. Here is a little bit about who I am and how I got here.
Back to the beginning…
I grew up in a fairly large suburb of Chicago, which had its perks. I could take a quick trip downtown for amazing views and some deep dish pizza, but I also loved the quiet of the suburbs. Throughout middle school and high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a chef. I had it all planned out. I would go to culinary school in New York, work in a fancy NYC restaurant, and someday open my own gourmet grilled cheese store (I know, right?). Then I did some research. Turns out, it’s not that easy to become a chef. Tough schooling, long hours, terrible pay; all that for at least 8-10 years before touching a chef’s hat. So, in the spring of my senior year, I pivoted and chose to attend the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Boulder had it all. Hiking trails 10 minutes from my dorm, ski resorts surrounding me, and some of the best cafeteria food I had ever tasted. Unfortunately, I never felt at home there. The sheer size of the school and the classes quickly made me feel isolated. I finished out my freshman year and came home. I then started the college search all over again, this time searching for a small school. A family friend suggested I look at Drake University in Des Moines. I visited campus and decided I had to come back. I chose to major in advertising with a minor in psychology and a concentration in human behavior. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Drake has given me so many creative outlets that I can use to brand myself and my passion: backyard smoking!
I remember the first time I was introduced to smoking meats a few years ago. Like many, I fall prey to the 2 am YouTube rabbit hole once in awhile. One of these spirals led me to a smoking video from a guy by the name of Malcom Reed. He had the coolest outdoor kitchen I had ever seen, complete with 3-4 smokers and a beautiful countertop. He was cooking up some pork belly burnt ends and I remember thinking, “those have to be the most delicious looking things I have ever seen.” That night, I watched maybe 2-3 hours of Malcom’s videos on his channel, HowToBBQRight. The next day, I spent hours researching how to smoke meats and came up with the idea to build my own smoker.
Once I realized that I had neither the correct tools nor the funds to build my own, I began searching for a used smoker online. After weeks of scrolling through Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Craigslist, I finally found it: a Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker. She was a bit rough around the edges, but I was determined to bring her back to life. I spend a good portion of my summer that year dismantling, sanding, repainting, and upgrading my new smoker. The finished product is the same beauty you see me using today.
Thank god for YouTube!