Bear Creek Smokehouse: A Culinary Legacy of 80 Years Unveiled by Celebrity Chef Robbie Shoults

Robbie Shoults, a renowned chef and third-generation proprietor of Bear Creek Smokehouse, has dedicated 80 years of collective effort with his devoted family to propel their business forward. Recognized for their mastery in smoking meats, they’ve earned the title of ‘The First Family of Texas Smoked Meats,’ attaining national acclaim for their consistently sought-after and award-winning products. Their unwavering commitment to excellence in smoking and flavor has firmly established their reputation in households across the nation.

Chef Robbie now shares insights into the secrets behind managing a family-centric business and the pivotal roles that food and faith have played in ensuring their enduring success. This includes unveiling the unique narrative of Bear Creek Smokehouse and providing a glimpse into the recipe for longevity in the culinary industry.

Chef Robbie’s culinary prowess has garnered widespread recognition, with him serving as a five-time guest judge on Beat Bobby Flay and being featured on various platforms such as NTD News, CBS, Huckabee, The List, WGN, the TODAY show, Rachael Ray, and more. Bear Creek’s recipes and his contributions have graced the pages of national publications like Taste of Home, Meat + Poultry, HuffPost, NBC News, Martha Stewart, Mashed,, and The Food Network. They are regularly featured in Eat This Not That, among others.

Starcentral Magazine recently interviewed Robbie Shoults, and here’s the scoop on what went down:

Bear Creek Smokehouse has a remarkable 80-year history. Can you share the unique story of how the business came to be, and how it has evolved over three generations to become ‘The First Family of Texas Smoked Meats’?

Bear Creek was formed out of necessity as the Shoults family was coming out of the great depression and World War II. My great-grandparents were raising hogs, cattle, cotton, and corn alongside a commercial garden and still struggling to make ends meet on the family farm. My granddad Hick Shoults learned from my uncle, an agricultural teacher, that turkeys put on more pounds of gain per pound of feed compared to hogs and cattle. So, in 1943, my grandparents purchased around 600 baby turkeys and added them to the farm.

That first year, they fed them out, and during the holidays, people came from town to the family farm to get a turkey for the holidays. Over the next few years, they would build a small processing plant and a small smokehouse to accommodate their growing business. As the years progressed, they would eventually add on to that tiny little Smokehouse seven times, until finally, in 1972, they built a new processing facility – which has now been added on to numerous times since then. Over the years, my dad, Bobby, my son, Hunter, and I have come up with numerous recipes and new products to add to our lineup of smoked meat offerings.

Your family has garnered national recognition for your expertise in smoking meats. What do you believe sets Bear Creek Smokehouse apart from other establishments, and how do you maintain the consistent excellence that has become your hallmark?

The family recipes that we created years ago, and some many, many years ago, are still tried and true today. We like to think of Bear Creek as a boutique-style Smokehouse where everything is still done by hand; nothing is a cookie-cutter process. We use only the finest cuts of meat available and the best seasonings and spices that we can find to maintain the level of quality that we have provided for 80 years. Our family members still oversee all the processes in the smokehouse with a watchful eye and a lot of hands-on in the day-to-day production operations.

Having been featured on numerous TV shows, including five appearances as a guest judge on Beat Bobby Flay, how has this exposure impacted Bear Creek Smokehouse, and what has been the most memorable experience from your time on these shows?

I believe that any national TV exposure we have received in the past years helps build brand awareness like nothing else. We receive calls, emails, and orders from people all over the country who otherwise would have never heard of Bear Creek Smokehouse. We have families that travel cross country and will make it a point to stop by our beautiful general store when passing through the great Lone Star State. Once they get here, we give them a big dose of Texas hospitality, and before they leave, they feel like a part of the family. I would say my most memorable experiences have been when my son Hunter can accompany me and cook with me on national TV. It’s not his favorite thing to do but it’s pretty cool to have him with me on Rachael Ray or the Today show or even selling together on QVC.

Bear Creek Smokehouse has been featured in a wide array of national publications. Can you speak to the importance of media coverage in the culinary industry and how it contributes to the success and growth of your business?

We have been blessed to have been featured in many publications through the years, and those publications, just like TV, help build Bear Creek’s brand awareness to millions of people across the country. It is so important to continue trying to get that name out repeatedly, as repetition drives people to action. With an increased frequency of the Bear Creek message, whether it be in print media, online, a national TV show, or our funny commercials, it makes people want to come out here and see what this awesome place is all about and eat some great barbecue while they are here. From here, we begin to grow a huge customer base.

Your contributions and recipes have been featured in publications like Taste of Home, HuffPost, and Martha Stewart. How do you approach creating recipes that resonate with a broad audience while staying true to the traditions of Bear Creek Smokehouse?

At this point, I have to give a lot of credit to my sweet wife, Tracy. She has been instrumental in helping me with recipe development, and we love nothing more than getting creative in the kitchen together. I think we have been able to appeal to a broad audience by keeping it as simple as possible, just like Bear Creek has always been. We understand that people are living fast and in a hurry these days and don’t always have time for a complicated recipe or one that calls for ingredients that need to be googled. We love simple recipes that you can get the whole family involved in preparing.

Faith appears to play a pivotal role in your life and business. How has your faith influenced the values and principles that guide Bear Creek Smokehouse, and how do you balance faith with the challenges of running a successful family-centric business?

Our motto is “Food, Family, and Faith,” and it works so well to live by that motto. Our employees understand this, too, and we always try to hire people with the same core values as the Shoults family. Our employees are an extension of our family, and we always do our best to guide and help them through any challenges that may arise as we all work together to make Bear Creek successful. In running the business, we all strive to do the right thing all the time; when we do that, it’s always the right choice. Faith has been challenged over the years, as not all of them have been good ones early on, but keeping the faith even in struggles and hard times has been the right choice.

As a third-generation owner, what lessons have you learned about running a family-centric business that you believe are crucial for long-term success, especially in the culinary industry?

Listen and learn from each generation before you, and pass on what you have learned to the next generation. You also have to be willing to learn from a younger generation as well. My son, Hunter, has brought so much technology and automation into the business that it helps us to be more competitive in a larger market. He has a brilliant mind for that and has really shown me a lot of ways to improve our production. Everyone in our family, and all the employees, has different talents, and I love blending them all together to make Bear Creek the best it can be and on the leading edge in the culinary industry.

Looking ahead, what do you see as the key ingredients for longevity in the culinary industry, and how do you envision the future of Bear Creek Smokehouse?

Build a legacy to leave behind, just as my granddad and dad did before me. Create a legacy of only providing the very best of anything you do. Use the highest quality ingredients available and couple that with outstanding customer service. In the case of our general store, we aim to create the most memorable experience and environment for your customers. They will return time and time again, and you will build customers for life. I see Bear Creek going into the future without losing sight of all the things that have made Bear Creek successful in the past, from recipes to values and principles, and, of course, always doing the right thing!

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