FREEPORT – Freeport residents Taylor Williams and Orion Poulin understand most people are familiar with craft beer, but they hope to bring the same small-batch philosophy to a food known for its sloppiness and sometimes utensil-free stylings.

“We do craft barbecue,” said Williams, 32.

The brainchild of Williams, who has been cooking at restaurants off and on since high school, Taylor Made Smoke was launched in January and features wood-smoked meats such as brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausages and chicken. The company also offers pizza cooked on a special stone, which gives the pie a distinct, smoky aftertaste, said Poulin. The company essentially provides catering for weddings, corporate events, or even backyard parties on a year-round basis, weather permitting.

The genesis for Taylor Made Smoke was a backyard epiphany Williams had five years ago after his wife bought him a “smoker,” an apparatus for cooking at low temperatures in a controlled smoky environment.

“I just became obsessed with smoking food,” said Williams. “I had tossed the idea around for a few years of doing something like this and when I met Orion, who has the same passion and drive, it really took off.”

After knocking around a few ideas, the pair invested in a portable commercial-grade electric pellet smoker and began to offer their services this spring. They are not a large-scale catering operation by design, said Poulin.

“It’s a fairly limited menu and we stick to stuff we do really well,” said Williams. “It’s homemade, not a mass-produced, chain-style barbecue. It’s down-home food.”

Poulin describes the food as New England style, a description that Williams admits is vague but one that he hopes to perfect.

“I’d love to help put New England on the map when it comes to barbecue,” said Williams. “Most of the other caterers around here say their barbecue is traditional southern style. I’m not trying to do that. I make my own sauce and my own spice rub.”

The pair behind Taylor Made Smoke use the electric pellet smoker, a nearly $1,000 investment, a relatively new device that features compressed hardwood pellets instead of rough-cut wood. The pellets can be bought in a variety of flavors, said Williams.

The company is hoping to ride the wave of interest in smoked and grilled food. According to Technomic, a research and consulting firm that specializes in food-related trends, the popularity of barbecue, once the domain of weekend get-togethers and amateur grill masters, is growing as the interest in comfort food increases nationally. Locally, the Freeport-based Buck’s Naked BBQ restaurant has expanded to Portland and Windham in recent years.

Is there money to be made in barbecue catering? In a state like Texas, most definitely. According to a small business study by the Houston Chronicle, Texas-based caterers, working an average of three business days per week at a regular location plus one day per weekend at an event, could expect to earn around $8,600 a week. Many variables can affect actual income, and such a business could be significantly impacted by seasonal variations in demand, the report concluded.

Both Poulin and Williams have full-time jobs as an industrial manufacturer and architect, respectively, and their availability for now is limited to weekends.

“We have a wedding in August for 75 people,” said Williams. “For a private event that’s probably right in our wheelhouse, numbers wise. We can do larger parties but right now it’s just the two of us.”

The company, whose cost of services is “competitive,” they said, is emphasizing customer service and a high level of customization as key selling points for their venture. Taylor Made Smoke will also venture beyond catering this summer and sell their food at area events, including the annual Bath Heritage Days in July.

“Our strength is in the name,” said Poulin. “It’s Taylor Made and that is our philosophy for everything in the business.”

Taylor Williams, left, and Orion Poulin with their wood pellet smoker in Freeport. They have launched Taylor Made Smoke, a barbecue catering company, and are gearing up for their first year.

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