Chef Josh Hunt

Backyard Chef

A job that requires keeping a low profile is not exactly a prerequisite for becoming a social media personality. But Josh Hunt, who just retired after a 20-year career in law enforcement, managed to successfully carry a badge and, in his off hours, wield a spatula for a legion of Instagram followers.

Hunt is a self-taught backyard chef who grills and griddles from the patio of his North Texas home. He is also a cookbook author and newly minted pastor. Turns out food and fellowship go hand in hand. “It’s hard to argue with somebody who’s giving you some real good food. It’s a way of opening doors and building community,” he says.

For Hunt, his wife and two children—along with the rest of the world—everything changed in March 2020. The pandemic lockdown happened, restaurants shuttered, and folks were confined to cooking at home. “We needed more options,” Hunt recalls. A friend recommended a Blackstone griddle. It was a big investment and Hunt’s wife, Melanie, was skeptical they would get his money’s worth out of it based on family history. Their old grill hadn’t seen much action. But Hunt pulled the trigger, bought the Blackstone and was outside making pancakes on the griddle the next morning. He hasn’t stopped cooking since. “I just keep coming up with new ideas for recipes.”

You might think a lifelong Texan would be a born BBQer. “No, no, no,” insists Hunt. “I was never very good at grilling. I learned from my dad, and he burned everything because he was always worried about giving me food poisoning. Our chicken was always dry. I thought steak was supposed to be fully cooked all the way through. I didn’t know you could have a medium rare steak. So that was part of the learning curve.”

Hunt’s new-found passion for cooking dovetailed perfectly with another new hobby, food photography. Starting an Instagram account was a logical next step. “But at the time, I was a narcotics detective,” Hunt says. “I did some undercover work, so I really avoided putting my face or anything with me on camera for a long time. A lot of my early posts were just focused on the food.”

He kept going, and in time his Instagram, “just kind of blew up. I got a lot of attention, making some really cool-looking food,” like family favorite smash burgers and Mexican pulled pork. Garnering attention—and respect–for grilling skills in Texas is no small feat.

Today Hunt uses the power of video to demonstrate his recipes. “I always try to walk people through the process, from ingredients to the finished product, because as a self-taught chef, I was always learning myself. And it’s not always just full-on recipes. There are tips and tricks I share along the way. Hey, I’ll even show my failures and that just kind of resonates with people.”

Relatability isn’t an act. “Probably 99% of everything that I post is stuff that we make for dinner. It’s not just making content. We actually make food to feed our friends and family. It’s real stuff,” he says. In fact, ask Hunt about being an influencer or social media celebrity and he balks. “I wouldn’t call myself either of those. I’m just, you know, a backyard cook. A grill guy.”

Why Mercer Culinary

“Quality equipment is super important. Especially when you’re working outdoors and you’re storing your equipment out in the elements. With dull knives, you’re going to tear up your meat before you even get to the cooking process. Subpar equipment just makes the whole process harder and more frustrating.”

– Backyard Chef Josh Hunt