“Bear Mountain is one of the best pellets on the market right now. They’re clean, full of flavor and have no dust.”
For Mark Williams, barbecuing has always been a family affair.
He and his older brother Jamie started cooking steaks for their parents and two sisters at a young age. When Williams was 12, a good family friend was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. To show their support, the Williams family put together a fundraiser in their town of Hernando, Mississippi, complete with a big barbecue. Hundreds lined up to try Williams’ food. They raised nearly $30,000 that day, and from then on, Williams understood the power of spending time around the grill.
“Barbecue can bring people together and turn a sad situation into something better,” the 33-year-old says. “People think barbecue is just food, but it’s so much more than that.”
After that successful day, Williams’ father, Fate, started his own catering business, Pop’s Barbecue, as a retirement project. Williams worked with his dad, growing his passion for outdoor cooking. After graduating from high school, he went to Diesel Mechanic School in Nashville, and then took a job in his hometown at construction machinery company Caterpillar.
Consistently barbecuing on the weekends and whenever possible, Williams and his brother tried out a local barbecue contest in 2013.
“The first backyard contest we did we won,” Jamie Williams says. “We didn’t really know what we were doing but, after that, we were hooked.”
The Williams’ brothers named their team Swine Life BBQ and hit the road, competing every weekend. They placed in more than a dozen competitions, including the 2015 Jack Daniels World Championship 1st Place Chicken, 2nd place Rib (KCBS), 2016 Bull Moose Reserve Grand Champion (KCBS), 2017 Kennett Jaycees Reserve Grand Champion (KCBS) and the 2019 World Food Championship Finals 3rd Place Steak Category. Williams says it’s been an honor to have their culinary creations recognized, but his favorite part of the competitions has always been the community.
“At the end of the day, it all boils down to the relationships we gained and the memories we made,” says Williams. “Some of the best people I know I’ve met through barbecue. You meet people from all walks of life.”
In 2017, the brothers started scaling back on their competitions, taking a look at the brand they created and what they wanted to do with it.
“We realized our audience wasn’t the people we were competing with,” Williams says. “Our audience is the backyard barbecuers, the people who are trying to learn and have some fun."
To better cater to their audience, the Williams brothers built up Swine Life BBQ, launching a line of rubs, plus a website and social media channels. They started focusing on education, hosting backyard barbecue classes and posting a how-to cooking video each week on their YouTube channel. They also focused on the catering side of their business and started working as wholesale reps for their friend and mentor Malcolm Reed, the founder of How to BBQ Right. After 16 years as a mechanic, Williams was able to quit his job this September and take on barbecue full time.
“Being able to dedicate all my time to a passion I’ve had since I was a kid is a dream come true,” Williams says.
Williams first discovered Bear Mountain in Dallas when he and his brother were competing. They instantly became fans of the all-natural, hardwood pellets.
“Bear Mountain is one of the best pellets on the market right now. They’re clean, full of flavor and have no dust,” Williams says.