Simplicity is the secret when it comes to preparing barbecue, according to Kenneth Barton.
"Barbecue is simple; you don't need to make it into something that it is not," he said.
Barton should know. For the past four years he has earned nearly 50 top-placing prizes for his grill cooking. That includes his fourth consecutive year as grand champion of the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce's Triple B festival.
"It's getting to the point where I am running out of room in my house (for the awards)," he said.
His winning formula includes a homemade barbecue sauce that took first place at the 2013 Tri-States BBQ Festival in Dothan, Ala.
But it all began with childhood experiences in the kitchen. Barton's mother and grandmother taught him how to make homemade biscuits, he said.
Since then, passion for cooking has spurred his side business as owner and operator of Poverty Hill Smokers in Mossy Head. Barton primarily works with heavy machinery at Barton Construction in Defuniak Springs.
The catering service wouldn't have started without his daughter, Haley Bass, convincing him in 2010 to participate in a barbecue cooking competition in DeFuniak Springs. Barton's chicken thighs won first place.
"I thought this was pretty cool, so I kept doing it," he said.
In addition to Barton's barbecue — with favorites like ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken — being recognized locally and regionally, his grill master techniques have won awards in Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana.
Barton also cooks banana pudding, chicken and dumplings and cinnamon buns and other items.
The key is to never settle with one dish or one technique, he said.
"I am always learning something new," he said. "You never get complacent."