Chris Williams, owner and executive chef of Four Pegs Smokehouse & Bar, is testing his skills on the Food Network show “BBQ Brawl.” LEO sat down with Williams to catch up with him about his restaurant, talk about sobriety and community support, and discuss the show.
Williams started his career as a chef with a barbeque food truck, Café 502. Since buying the Four Pegs property in 2018, Williams has changed the store for the better. Between switching to full service and changing the menu to barbeque, he’s tripled the amount of food being sold. They’ve also expanded to Lynn Family Stadium and Slugger Field.
Williams and Four Pegs support the community whenever they can through a few different organizations, one of which is Apron Inc., a cause that has helped Williams in the past. Apron Inc. provides temporary financial relief to professional food and beverage workers in Louisville.
“I was at my bachelor party, and I got severe frostbite on both my hands,” he said. “I wasn’t able to work for a while. They thought I was going to lose my fingers. Apron paid some of my bills to help get me by until I was able to start working again.”
Along with Apron Inc., mental health and suicide prevention are extremely important to Williams. He helped put together an event called “A Taste of Life,” a fundraiser for NAMI Louisville and the Pete Foundation featuring live music and local chefs.
“I’ve had a couple of friends who have tragically taken their lives,” Williams said. “When Anthony Bourdain took his life, it made me and a couple of other chefs take a look at each other and say, you know, maybe we’re not really thinking about mental health, the service industry, and how we struggle. Maybe even more so than most because of the long hours and being away from family and friends.”
Having started the show two months into being sober, Williams was working on discovering the new version of himself. He advocates heavily for mental health support among service workers.
“With [service workers] working the way that we do and the intense pressure to always put perfection on a plate and give someone the perfect dining experience, it leads to a lot of substance abuse and just not taking care of yourself,” he said. “So it was really important to me, especially with being such an advocate for mental health, to take care of myself. It was a rough process getting sober. I realized I was more of a shadow of myself walking around, not present. I’m trying to take my experience and pass it on to other people and mentor people into being able to find sobriety for themselves if that’s what they choose to do.”
As for the future of Four Pegs after the show, Williams has plenty of ideas for expansion.
“We’ve got the best wings in Louisville, so I want to get a rally-style building where it’s just a pull-up, drive-through or walk-up and we don’t have any indoor service, but you can come up and get the best smoked wings, and get it to go really quick,” said Williams. “I’d like to get into a couple more stadiums because those seem to go really well. It’s great food that you can get at a stadium that they don’t typically have.”
When Williams had to leave Four Pegs in January to start filming for “BBQ Brawl,” he felt confident about his team running the restaurant while he was gone. This isn’t the first show that Williams has done; He’s been a participant on “Big, Bad Barbeque Brawl” on the Cooking Channel and featured on “Food Paradise” on the Food Network.
Along with his excitement to meet Bobby Flay and Rodney Scott, “BBQ Brawl” taught Williams plenty of knowledge to take back to Four Pegs and his team here in Louisville.
“I met a lot of really great chefs while I was there, and so I learned a lot from their styles and my style, and I kind of learned how to better work as a team,” he said. “The show’s going to have lots of surprises. They throw things at us that are fun and incredibly challenging, and it’s going to be a great show to watch.”
The season premiere of “BBQ Brawl” aired Monday, July 10. New episodes air every Monday at 10 p.m. on the Food Network.