We’ve all seen the girls with the duck lips posing for the camera. The people asking for free things in exchange for exposure. There are millions of them, working the side hustle trying to make it. They want to be self employed, their own boss, living the dream. It can happen, if you work really hard. Ask my husband, The Grillin’ Fool. He’s amassed just under a million followers across his social media platforms and it all started with a rusty grill in our backyard. The whole thing is just bizarre.
It started simply enough just after the birth of our first child. A little bitty blog hoping to make some extra cash, that morphed into a full-time career. But it was not easy. He has worked on developing recipes in the middle of the night. He has spent hours in the cold cooking ribs and doing lives on Facebook and Instagram. And the rest of us, me and four kids, get relegated to the second floor so none of the viewers know we exist. There can’t be a peep when he’s on. Sometimes, he promises dinner, but it takes hours to get the perfect shot, so I throw in some pizza rolls and the kids eat on the floor while he’s photographing. He says, “Camera pays the bills, camera eats first.” Insert eyeroll.
He has this persona that he projects when he is working. He attends events all over the world with some of the biggest names in BBQ. And while he is there, he dresses exclusively in clothing with flames on it. Um, I am 100 percent serious. He has suits, full coat and jacket, covered in flames. And these aren’t from some cheap knockoff website — this stuff cost hundreds of dollars, but as he says, it’s a business expense. A tax deduction. There are socks, shoes, ties, shirts, sweatshirts and a pair of swim trunks. All that is missing are the boxer briefs and that’s only because he hasn’t found them yet. He embodies the Grillin’ Fool. It’s him. All.the.time. We went to an auction at our kids’ school and he wore the flame jacket. I will say, he looked hot. See what I did there? But I drew the line on the pants. Half a clown suit is enough.
As the man draped in flames, people know him. They remember him. If you saw some of this stuff, you’d never forget it. It burns your eyes. But even when he’s not in costume, I mean professionally dressed, people still know who he is. There was a time when he did a lot of local television promoting his blog, so his face was everywhere. This was long before the fire suit. We were at breakfast one morning in a packed restaurant and a man made his way across the room and said, “Oh wow. You’re the Grillin’ Fool. Can I have your autograph?” I about died. How nuts is that? We live in St. Louis. I expect people making a beeline to get Nelly’s John Hancock. But my husband? No way.
But to get there, you need the perfect place to master your craft. Our deck is massive. It is part of the reason we bought our house. I pictured one of those large sectionals with the bright cushions and a matching umbrella. A place to enjoy my Diet Coke on a lovely spring day. Nope. He threw a roof on it and made the largest grill corral you’ve ever seen. It serves as a studio for his shoots. There is special lighting, photographers, videographers, a production assistant. It takes all day, sometimes an entire weekend. And it’s all to highlight what those grills can do. Right now there are seven of them out there. Seven! Smokers, gas grills, a giant thing with a rotisserie on it that could probably fit a whole hog. There are three more in the garage that have to be assembled. And these are all clients. They are either paying him to cook on them, or to run their social media for them. He works with people all over the world. Europe. Check. Australia. Got it. Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He’s there too. He truly is legit.
When this all started, I don’t think anyone could have imagined how successful he would be. It’s like an American Dream kind of thing. And a lot of days, I don’t believe it. It’s like we’re living in an alternate universe. When people ask what he does, I sometimes cringe. Saying that your husband is a social media influencer can sound so trite. Anyone can be that, right?. But for him, it’s his truth. He really does it. Day in and day out. And he works harder than any nine-to-fiver I know. It’s bizarre, yet really cool. And the next time we head out for a fancy dinner, I’ll proudly stand next to him looking like he’s on fire.
You never know, I might even find myself a flaming hot clutch to bring along.