Joseph Stokes has been a popular “backyard” cook in the Stephenville area for years, but he only recently decided to declare himself officially part of the catering business world. His new catering service is called 5S, as shown on its Facebook page.

Stokes has already done quite a few catering jobs, including one attended by more than 300 people.

Stokes decided to move forward with his professional catering service based, in part, on encouragement from others.

“I’ve always been kind of a backyard chef,” Stokes said. “People thought I was really good at it, and they started asking me to do it for them.”

What’s the secret to becoming good at cooking?

“You’ve got to mess up quite a few times,” Stokes quipped. “That’s the only way to learn it.”

His key offerings include briskets and steaks, along with pulled pork, ribs, chicken and tenderloins.

He noted that his most popular items are “definitely brisket or steaks.”

Stokes said he does prime briskets, any grade desired.

“A lot of times I get dry aged beef for steaks, and wet aged beef for briskets,” Stokes said.

Stokes also provides a wide variety of side dishes, including twice-baked potato, cheesy bacon ranch potato, refried beans and of course pinto beans.

“There’s probably not any side I can’t make,” Stokes said.

Stokes started getting serious about cooking seven or eight years ago, about the time he graduated from Tarleton State University with a degree in business management.

“I always cooked as a hobby,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, for sure. First off, I just love food.”

Stokes enjoys experimenting with different seasonings and techniques, seeking ways to make food taste better. He has a name to describe himself in that role.

“That’s what I like to do, is play barbecue scientist,” Stokes said. “I make all of my own seasonings, and I sell them. I experiment with brining and internal temperatures.”

He does most of his cooking on a smoker, or a Kamado Joe grill — an egg-shaped cooker that can cook up to 700-800 degrees.

“That’s kind of what we play around with in the backyard,” said Stokes, who will turn 30 in September.

Stokes and his wife Mandi, who graduated from Stephenville High School together in 2007, have two boys and one girl — Lane, 8; Luke, 6; and Leah, 3.

Mandi opened her fitness gym, The Body Shop, three years ago. She has a master’s degree in kinesiology from TSU.

“She does help, mainly with the sides and dessert,” Stokes said.

Stokes competes in backyard chef competitions, often with longtime friend Shawn Stone. Stone’s mother is Lori Lesley of Stephenville, the owner of a home-based business named Rollin’ the Dough and Casseroles to Go. Lesley writes a food column for the E-T.

"We’ve been good friends for almost 15 years,” Stokes said of Stone. “We do a lot of cooking together — their family and ours. We like to watch football games and grill in the backyard.”

Stokes said he and Stone — who also has a catering service — always enter the Hico Steak Cookoff, which features more than 100 competitors.

Stokes said that they earned sixth place in the brisket competition about five years ago in a big Dallas cookoff.

“I have several different trailers. One of them is gigantic,” Stokes said. “I’ve done as many as 22 briskets on it at one time. The main one we use, it can do six to eight.”

At one big catering job, Stokes said there were “at least 300, 350” people. He prepared 15 briskets for that event, and noted, “I mean they ate every morsel.”

For pricing and other information, call Stokes at 254-592-1560.