Life moves fast, that we know, but here at Carolina Smoke we like slow. If your wait seems long, just remember that we are not a fast food restaurant.”
Not hiding his true emotions at all, David Hayward makes sure his guests take notice of the framed saying that is posted inside his restaurant at Bothell’s Country Village.
Raised in Charleston, S.C., Hayward observed his mom cook and took an avid interest in cooking as a child. He never attended culinary school, but received his degree in graphic arts instead. While working for different companies in multiple jobs, he took one class involving barbecue and another in catering. As he would say, he created his barbecue passion all by himself. A year after moving to Washington, he continued to barbecue in the Marine Corps and later on in Vietnam.
Traveling from the South to the West gave Hayward the ability to test the different American barbecue styles.
“I learned what people like. People in the Northwest like their barbecue sweeter, while in the South, they like more mustard and vinegar,” he said.
After being a chef with the military for seven years, Hayward returned to Washington and began working for the city of Seattle.
Early in 2002, Hayward sat down with his friends, discussed his past success and began to devise a plan to create a catering business.
Like anyone starting their own business, funds were a definite factor in the process, but Hayward solved that problem when he won $100,000 in the lottery.
“My dream was to open a restaurant. I got lucky,” Hayward remarked with a smile.
Later that year, his dream became a reality when he began his catering business, Carolina Smoke, in Redmond. In the beginning years, Hayward catered on-site for numerous events, including one where he traveled across the water at 6 a.m. to start smoking for a wedding reception at noon on Vashon Island. Proving his dedication to barbecue, he slept in the back of a chuck wagon. He laughed, “It was a trip.”
Wanting to expand his business, Hayward took the offer from a friend to visit a vacant building located in Country Village. Soon after, he purchased the building and launched full force into catering.
Though Hayward’s shop started as a take-out business only, his customers had another idea.
“I wish I would have had my camera,” he remarked after seeing a line of people eating outside of the restaurant. But this is exactly what Hayward wanted: “I opened the place to be friendly and relaxing.”
One thing people must know is Hayward’s disgust for grilling: “I hate … no, I despise lighter fluid. People have a misunderstanding of barbecue. Barbecue is low and slow, smoking meat at a low temperature for a long time.”
Swearing it tastes better, Hayward uses mesquite, hickory, alder and cherry wood pellets to add to the meat’s flavor. He takes pride in his meat, and promises, “it won’t be cut ‘til you order it.”
When asked about his charity fund-raisers, Hayward could not resist telling the story of a young man named Julian Larson. Larson played baseball with Hayward’s son, Branden, and when he was informed that Julian was diagnosed with leukemia, he said, “I knew I had to do something. In two days, I put on a benefit at QFC and raised a lot of money for Julian.” Perhaps it was the care and concern of people such as Hayward that gave Julian the hope and strength to persevere through his illness, and to this day he is healthy and loving life.
The moment people step foot in Carolina Smoke, they witness Hayward’s love for barbecue and friends.
“I try to talk to everyone who comes in. I walk around and say ‘Hi’. That’s just me,” he said.
Since Hayward spends his morning, afternoon and much of the night at his restaurant preparing for the next day, he comes home late, much to the displeasure of his girlfriend, whom he coincidentally met at a barbecue competition.
“She’ll cook at home because she wants me to eat, but I like to create, do a lot of experimenting,” he said.
Surprisingly, there are a few non-barbecue items he enjoys, as well. “Yea, there’s a few out there. Shrimp, salmon — not smoked. I like to cook breakfast. I like doing my eggs,” he said.
When, and if, Hayward retires, his family business will continue to thrive with son Branden, who has already taken a fervent interest in barbecue, and enjoys cooking with his dad. Hayward stated, “He loves barbecue.”
Not only is his son involved in the family business, but his daughter, as well. Fifteen-year-old Mikaela was the hostess on the restaurant’s opening day.
Different — and bigger
“Everybody does barbecue different, I know I do it a lot different,” Hayward said.
Different is correct, as Hayward will introduce his new grill to the restaurant — “it triples in size.”
Not only will he have a much larger grill for a lesser wait time, but he is planning to change his menu in the fall, as well. “There will be more stews and soups,” he said.
Though the menu may be small, that’s the way he likes it: “I don’t want to have a huge menu. I brought tri-tip in one day as a special … it’s no longer a special, it’s an everyday option.”
As the interview concluded, Hayward displayed his heart for animals, as a small dog bounded up straight to his feet. Immediately, he grabbed a bone and gave it to the pup, smiling, “dogs eat free” (perhaps the dog had been there before).
When asked what’s the best part about owning a business, he laughed and said, “I like seeing people smile. They’re happy, that means I did something good.”
You could say Hayward chose barbecue, but for those who know him, a better statement would be, barbecue chose him.