WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) — Mandrel Stuart, owner of Smoking Rooster's BBQ Pit and Caribbean Cuisine, has always loved to cook.
Mandrel Stuart in his restaurant, Smoking Roosters. | Credit: WHSV
"I was always in the kitchen with my mom and my grandmas, and I usually stayed with my grandmas, so they're always cooking," Stuart said.
He loved it so much he decided to make a career out of it by opening Smoking Roosters in 2009, originally in downtown Staunton, where it was rated number two on TripAdvisor for two years.
"The only place that was ahead of us was Split Banana, and that's ice cream. You can't beat ice cream," Stuart said.
Business was going so well that Stuart was planning on opening another Smoking Roosters in Harrisonburg, but Stuart had to put those plans on hold and close his restaurant.
Police confiscated more than $17,000 in cash during a traffic stop in 2012. It was money he was using to operate the restaurant.
"I lost everything. And had to start over fresh. I mean losing that money at that point in time... It was very hurtful," Stuart said.
Stuart was never charged with anything, and he was able to get the money back two years later, after police confirmed the money was for his restaurant.
"It's not really for me, because I like making people happy," Stuart said. "So, if people enjoy my food and they're like, 'Hey, that was great, keep it up!' That brings a smile to me. That let's me know I'm doing my job."
Since then, Stuart has been able to slowly rebuild and reopen Smoking Roosters: something he says he couldn't have done without the support he received.
The new spot is at 2284 Jefferson Hwy. in Waynesboro. That's on Route 250 just up from Amanda's Touch.
For now, the restaurant is open from 12-8 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday.