Dig Baton Rouge

All in the Family: Locals create online smoked BBQ catering service

From the Buy & Sell LSU group to your best friend selling concert tickets, Facebook has become a common place for ordinary people to make their products known to the public. Using social media platforms as business tools is becoming more popular as our society becomes more digital. But some people are raising the bar when it comes to making their products available online.

Take Roto Q BBQ and Tex-Mex, for example.

Barbecue is a family affair for Ryan Roton and his crew at Roto Q BBQ and Tex-Mex. Alongside his best friend, wife, their two children and his mother-in-law, he has created a menu combining two types of food he grew up eating.
Roton, who works in the oil industry, came up with the idea one Friday night while sitting with his wife, Nikki. With oil prices being down and Nikki currently staying home to care for their children, Ryan decided they needed another source of income. Cooking had always been one of his passions, so much so he wants to own his own restaurant, Ryan said.

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“Cooking is like therapy to me,” he said. “I’ll cook pots and pots of red sauce, or two or three briskets. Then I’d have people over to eat it all or I’d give it away.”

Ryan was born and raised in Texas, a prideful home of Tex-Mex and barbecue styles. After realizing that his Baton Rouge home didn’t really have a place he could go to for those things, he decided he’d make them himself.

He traveled to Texas to ask his favorite chefs what their methods and seasonings were and returned to Louisiana with this new knowledge and excitement to cook.

After realizing how much he enjoyed what he was doing, he told Nikki he was going to start a Facebook catering business. Two days after creating it, he had two parties booked and said the demand has been steadily rising since Roto Q began two months ago.

While the success of the company is something the team appreciates, Nikki said it’s the time they get to spend together as a family that makes it rewarding.

“The kids are running around and we’re all rolling tamales while Ryan runs in and out of the house to check on the smoker,” Nikki said. “This is a job that lets us be with our kids which means the world to me.”

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Lance Gatcher, another part of the Roto Q team and Ryan’s best friend, said he knew the idea for the catering service would work before they tried it. Confident in his friend’s abilities and the chance to be a part of something that didn’t feel like work, Gatcher volunteered his time and energy into helping a group of people he now calls family.

Depending on the menu, the team prepares for hours before taking any of their food to the next party or reception. Entrees such as smoked ham, turkey, brisket and other meats are offered with a slate of sides. In all of it, Ryan says the key to his food is keeping it simple.

There are no special seasonings or sauces added to bring out the flavors of his meats. He entrusts the smoke and wood to do most of the work for him. The spices that he does use are purchased locally at the Red Stick Farmers Market.

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“Here you have a lot of people who can cook a pot of crawfish etouffee or a jambalaya, but how many people can make Texas-style brisket?” Ryan asked. “There aren’t many.”

Looking at the upward projection for Roto Q, Ryan said the team is open to expanding more if their schedules allow it. He believes the team can take more jobs without having to sacrifice their other responsibilities. Nikki said traveling to Shreveport to cover parties isn’t out of the question as long as the family is together.

“I did the 30 days of thankfulness thing on Facebook this month, and everyday I have to try to find something to put other than moments like this,” Nikki said. “I became a stay-at-home mom after we had our second child, so even if I have to sit up and roll tamales all night, to be able to do that from home for these few years while they’re little … I’m grateful.”

The final piece of the team, Nikki’s mother, Belinda Yoder, has suggested offering a chicken and sausage gumbo as the colder weather comes in. Ryan said adding that to the menu will be the best of both worlds for some as they can enjoy Texas barbecue and Louisiana gumbo in the same area.

With only two months under their belts, the Roto Q team is excited to see what’s next. Ryan said the menu may undergo slight changes depending on the demands, but barbecue will always be at the forefront. He said taking a risk has paid off in more ways than he could imagine and has no stopping point in sight.

“If fear was the only reason that I can think of to not do something, then it’s not a good enough reason,” Ryan said. “I’ve been a lot of places people haven’t been and I know it can’t get as bad as it was then, so I take everything I have, put my effort in it and let it ride.”
Roto Q BBQ and Tex-Mex can be found on Facebook.

Photos by Kristine Stone.

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