Chef Eric Gephart has a hefty resume. He’s a Volunteer Chef for Taste of the NFL, Executive Chef of Animal Warriors, Lead Chef Instructor at The Chef’s Academy and Chief Culinary Officer at Kamado Joe Grills. And that’s just what he claims on LinkedIn. Needless to say, Eric is busy, but his phone was ringing off the hook in March and April.
Being friendly, always down for a new project, connected and obviously talented with a grill, it’s no wonder his rolodex and his social following boomed during a time when we were all forced to stay home and feed ourselves and loved ones. Along with bicycles, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, home barbeque grills sales boomed at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Protein was flying off the shelves, and everyone turned into a “chef,” trying to recreate restaurant-quality dinner.
Knowing that grills were in high demand and Kamado Joe had seen an increase in sales, we wanted to hear how this affected Eric, personally and professionally.
After talking about our strange new normal of living and common interests – food and the outdoors – for about 20 minutes, Eric tells us how he’s been focusing on helping consumers and partners. He feels that if you have a product that can solve a problem or improve your life, there’s a story to be told, content to be developed and, hopefully, a following to arrive.
Since he’s a great storyteller, we let Eric tell us how he’s making this happen for Kamado Joe, in his own words.
Useful Is The New Cool
I’ve had about 1500 conversations a week right now. I tell anybody and everybody to use me as a resource. Part of what’s going on during COVID-19, and especially for folks like me, is that companies are meeting to reinvent their position and continue to lend value. Useful is the new cool.
For example, what’s going to put my app on your very first screen on your phone, versus two or three back? It’s being useful. I’ve got that flashlight app on my phone. That’s pretty darn useful.
The amount of chefs that are on the street right now hasn’t happened since the 1700s and the French Revolution. That was the birth of the modern restaurant. So now’s the time to start figuring out, A) what does recovery look like and then, B) what does post-recovery look like? I don’t know how things will change for my favorite neighborhood pub where passing a glass of craft beer around, tasting and comparing notes was common. What does the typical “wing night” look like now when it used to be packed? There’s going to be some changes, not just in the restaurant industry, but the grilling industry as well.
Kamado Joe has found themselves in a unique pocket where grilling at home has never been more important in the history of the company. To be able to make demo videos and get them out there quickly so that they’re useful to people, we’re not flexing our culinary muscle on these. We’re showing them how to use the rack of ribs or pork butt that they’ve forgotten about in their freezer. They NEED to feed their family of four and meal prep, and giving them these tools takes the pressure off.
“Little tools like that, we’re able to lend value to not just our users but people in general around the world. I think it’s important, and I think it’s exciting.”ERIC GEPHART, CHIEF CULINARY OFFICER AT KAMADO JOE GRILLS
It’s All About Content, Content, Content
The people that are calling me now are those who had to cancel photo shoots, demos, scheduled release dates or events that generate revenue for them, and now they’ve used up all of the content in their bank. I’ve even had calls from other grill companies asking if I can do recipe videos, technique videos, just fun things, but I’m not able to because I’m exclusively Kamado Joe.
But … I’m also a friendly guy, so I might kick a few recipes around. I share all of my recipes and techniques so I’ve been trying to help some of the small farm brands. For example, there’s a sausage company out of Monroe, Alabama, that’s sending me a few packs of different products. I’m not endorsed or getting paid, but I want to help these guys create some enthusiasm on their social media platforms. I need to make content on my side anyway, so I might as well be using brands that I’m absolutely in love with.
Selling Grills Is A Byproduct Of Who We Are
I want to tell people stories. You know how it is with lifestyle brands. At Kamado Joe, we’re not showing a grill cooking steaks, we’re connecting with people.
I travel throughout the year and get to do some cool stuff around the world. By sharing that, it just happens to sell a ton of grills. You know what I mean? Selling grills is a byproduct of being who we are. It’s really about sharing the experiences with people, being genuinely interested in other people and having the best products on the market for them.
Kamado Joe is fortunate that we’ve had very few canceled orders during this time. Our bigger partnerships with Lowe’s and Home Depot and such, those are thriving because of our constant innovation and culture. Our independent dealers are doing really well. We’re continuing to build plans on how to support them in post-relief with future events.
We’re also figuring out ways to jump onto retailer’s social media channels, do a takeover and maybe communicate with new users saying, “Okay, here’s how we do this on a Kamado Joe. If you have something else, so be it, but we’re going to get outside if you can. It’s a healthy way to be right now.”
Not only do we display the meat and grill. We can show off so many other brands, like cutting boards, knives, gloves and more. I just got a text from Shun Knives, and Grease Monkey loves to send gloves. Obviously, I’m going to show them love with videos and content at this time, too!
In The End, It’s A Team Effort
Luckily, Kamado Joe wasn’t negatively affected by the pandemic, and you see how Eric didn’t take this for granted. He used this time to help others, without hesitation.
Eric won’t take all of the credit though. He contributes this flexibility to his very supportive marketing team at Kamado Joe. They let him run with content development, but he also knows when a request is too big for him and marketing involvement is necessary. This mutual trust granted him the freedom to strengthen relationships, create new ones and quickly deliver content that’s really useful to both the consumer and brands in need.
“That’s what you want when you’re on a team. I’m surrounded by people who are smarter than me, that can really help me figure this out and give me support. I love it!”ERIC