Jamie Workman is from a family that knows how to put good food on the table. He learned to cook literally at his grandmother’s knee. “She started me out stirring,” he says of his path to becoming the owner of an award-winning barbeque business, Smokin’ the City BBQ & More.
While his mother managed S&S Restaurant, his father owned Workman’s Catering & Restaurant. When Jamie’s mother passed away in 2011, his father sold Workman’s and returned to S&S, now clocking 45 years in the restaurant business. “I think he’s a robot,” Jamie says of his tireless dad. “If he’s not in the kitchen, there’s something wrong. He loves to cook more than anything. And if his hands weren’t in it, he’s not satisfied.” Known for its extensive soul food menu, S&S is a long-time local favorite.
Jamie tried other careers, determined to stay out of the family business, but eventually realized that his heart was in the “fixins.” Then, Smokin’ the City BBQ & More was born. His food truck and smoker have become a familiar sight—and taste—at festivals and events in South Carolina, and he has expanded to a full-service catering company. By the end of 2020, Jamie expects to have Smokin’ the City running as a full-time spot for feeding Greenwood and its visitors.
In his team’s first year at the SC Festival of Discovery, they didn’t expect a big response, but saw it as a chance to get their feet wet in the festival world. “The response was overwhelming,” he says, “with the longest lines all day, every day of the festival. We didn’t expect to be so successful right out of the box, in our first competition.”
Because barbeque competitions are a world of their own, with very specific judging expectations for presentation, tenderness, color, sauce, and more, it usually takes a while for a team to start notching wins. But Jamie’s team has already placed second in BBQ hash, and first last year in ribs at the Abbeville competition. While the SC Festival of Discovery has been cancelled for 2020, plans are already being made to host a 20th anniversary celebration like no other in 2021.
This BBQ and Blues event, one of the most popular in the region, celebrates the history and culture of the area and treats festival-goers to the best of food, arts, crafts, and music. It’s a SC State Championship event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society and has been featured on the Food Network. The Blues Cruise, Kids Que Cooking Competition and variety of activities draw hungry and happy visitors to Uptown Greenwood each year.
In the meantime, Jamie keeps the kitchen hot with his Carolina style BBQ, pulled pork, turkey, chicken, and St. Louis style ribs, even deep fried ribs, breaded for a crispy crust. And he doesn’t stop with his signature BBQ dishes.
Just four months after his first Festival of Discovery competition, Jamie took his food truck back to the manufacturer and asked for a 12-foot hood system. The manufacturer wanted to know why a BBQ truck with a smoker needed a hood, but Jamie was planning bigger, more versatile menus for the catering business he had in mind. Today, the truck has steam tables, flat tops, and everything needed for a complete kitchen.
Made-from-scratch sauces, potato salad and coleslaw may have been the foundation of his catering business, but he’s now expanded the menu to provide whatever a client wants. Steak dinner for 200? No problem. Taco bar? Got it covered. “You name it, we cook it,” he says.
Planning and preparation are key, and he uses a commissary system, with six people doing prep and cooking the day before a big event, since nothing is pre-made. Before the pandemic, they were booked every weekend.
He was recently able to team with his father for the first time, joining both businesses to provide meals to the area’s first responders. Seeing his father step up to help was nothing new. “Dad’s well known for catering, from wedding banquets to funeral repasts, but he’s also known for doing favors and helping others,” he says of the project. “It always comes back as a blessing.”
One of the blessings he counts in his life is Greenwood itself. An avid fisherman, he’s always on Lake Greenwood when time allows, fishing for striped bass and crappie, or just enjoying the lake life. “The lake, that’s my favorite thing.”
But Greenwood is so much more than the water. First, there’s the food. From Cindy’s SouthPointe Restaurant for breakfast to the popular Howard’s on Main, T.W. Boon’s, Sports Break and Break on the Lake for food and live music. His favorite places include Fat Daddy’s for BBQ, Uptown’s Buffalo Grill for burgers, and a couple of newer spots, L&W Catering, and Diamond’s Market and Grill.
Beyond the food, there’s the 25 Drive-In Auto Theatre, the only one of its kind in the region, and things to do Uptown. “I visit Main Street as much as possible. There’s great entertainment in Uptown Greenwood along with shopping, featuring various gift shops and boutiques, the Arts District, book stores and the annual Signature Topiary Display from the SC Festival of Flowers.”
As many towns have struggled during the pandemic, Greenwood has kept businesses afloat. “Small businesses are serving, supporting one another. We’re keeping it local,” he says, as only Greenwood can do.