A lot of entrepreneurs struggle with branding themselves, but if there’s one person in Baton Rouge that knows how to build a successful online brand — it’s Jay Ducote. Jay is a food blogger extraordinaire who discovered his passion by taking a step back and thinking about what he really likes to do — tailgating. He’s the author of the Bite and Booze blog, Radio/Podcast host of Bite and Booze show & Raise a Glass, TV host of The Outdoor Shopper. Plus, he has a BBQ sauce and Cookbook in the works.
I had a chance to sit down with him at the amazing Restaurant IPO in Baton Rouge to talk about his journey in this Bite & Booze business.
Interview with Jay Ducote (man of many hats)
Richard: Where did you grow up?
Jay: I was born in Baton Rouge, my father got transferred to Houston when I was in 1st or 2nd grade, so I grew up in suburban Houston. I came back to Baton Rouge to go to LSU, both of my parents are Alums of LSU, so it’s where I always knew I wanted to go.
Got a degree in Economics and Political Science, but really majored in tailgating — I was really good at that. So I took a year off and then said, I need to just keep tailgating. So I went to grad school and got a Masters in Political Science, it bought me a couple more football seasons, but ultimately at the end of it I kind of said, I learned what I don’t want to do, I don’t want to be a political scientist or a politician for the rest of my life.
When did you know that you wanted to be a full-time food blogger and leave the status quo? Math teacher?
I just knew I did not have the calling to be a political scientist for the rest of my life. The summer after finishing my Master’s degree, football season was coming around, and buddy and I decided that we at least needed to have money for beer for football season.
So we went in to apply to be substitute teachers with the EBR parish school system. We even had these crazy demands like: No elementary school, we have to be at the same school, and a somewhat decent neighborhood. They basically said, here’s the application and gave us everything else we need. They told us to come back here tomorrow morning ready to go on an interview. On the interview, they came out and said “We feel like angels have come down from heaven and blessed us”. They hired us both on the spot. School started the next day and we had to fill out paper work and get background checks, so the principal told us to come back on Monday ready to teach.
“It kind of hit me one day, I was like damn, I spend a lot of money eating and drinking…”
After that, I got a job working for the state of Louisiana doing grant writing and policy research. I went from teaching and coaching to being at a computer 9-5. I was bored out of my mind. A couple of months after working for the state, I got this idea. There had to be something to kill some time. It kind of hit me one day, I was like damn, I spend a lot of money eating and drinking, I go to a lot of restaurants and I know the food scene pretty well, and I love it. Let me just start writing about everything that I eat and drink.
When did you completely flip the switch?
It took me about a year and a half of doing it as a hobby before I even entertained the thought that this could turn into something else. Once I entertained that thought, it was about 6 months later that I quit my day job and have been doing this full time. I put a year and a half of pretty hard work of growing my brand, my name and growing the blog. I had some pretty fortunate breaks along the way. I started the blog in September 2009, by that January, I had approached a magazine about me doing some food writing for them. I wrote a monthly column for Town Favorites for a full year. Also in 2010 I had a recipe get selected for the Tony Chachere’s tailgating cook off, which I ended up winning, which got me a good bit of press. People started to know who I was and know that I had a food blog. Which was pretty big, because there wasn’t really anyone else doing that.
April 2011 is when I started the Bite & Booze radio show. I emailed Guarantee Broadcasting and told them my idea, and they said, yeah let’s do it. Then I was able to start getting sponsors and advertisers, that’s when it clicked, maybe I can do this full time. At the end of that summer, I quit my day job.
Did you have to raise money on for any projects, how did you do that? 225 Fund
Myself and Tommy Tally, a local filmmaker, we were producing a web based documentary (Video) about taking a south Louisiana food & beverage writer like myself who’s a fat ass. Trying to do what I do and be healthier at the same time. For four months we filmed a documentary about that lifestyle adjustment and the balance there. The 225 fund is a group of 10 guys who throw up 100 each month they get together and pick a project that they think is cool and they give them a grand to kick-start it. I applied for it, and they said that it was a project we want to fund. No questions asked.
What do you like to do for fun, outside the office/kitchen/fridge?
I really like to travel, and just experience different cultures. I also really like to sail, I have a sailboat on Lake Pontchartrain. I don’t get to it enough, but it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy the water and the wind power. The more video stuff that I do, the more appreciative I am of that world. I’m so busy right now though, I definitely have not got to a point where I said this isn’t what I want to do any more.
Tell me more about your BBQ sauce and cookbook.
My BBQ sauce isn’t out yet, but it will get done. I have a book deal with LSU press, but I still have to write it (the book). It will be a Bite & Booze cookbook, but it will largely be a narrative cookbook. Telling stories about how I got started, but recipes mixed in there as well.
What’s next for you and where can people find you?
What’s next? Oh gosh… where to begin? We covered the book deal with the LSU Press and the Barbecue sauce. Immediately I’m focused on a campaign to get me into the MLB FanCave for 2013 (go VOTE, refresh & vote again), which would be a game-changer. I’m trying to expand my food and beverage writing to more regional and national publications. I have two radio shows that I’d like to continue to improve on as well as recruit some additional sponsors and advertisers for radio, blog, etc. I also have more pop-up dinners and other cooking plans in the works. There are some video series that I’m working on as well, along with some other TV shows, etc. It is going to be a crazy 2013!
People can find me:
BONUS: Leave a comment below about blogging or food/drink, and for 24 hours only, Jay will reply back to you.
Play the interview
This is an audio version of this interview. I’m starting a new series in-which I interview amazing people doing the unthinkable in the entrepreneurial/heath & fitness communities. DO enjoy :)[powerpress]Also on iTunes (please leave a 5 star review), YouTube, Stitcher Radio, or the blog (in-which you’ll get more)
A little lagniappe
How to Startup a blog
This is an article I wrote mainly for family and friends who kept asking me how to setup a blog. It’s more than 3 steps, but I think it covers the core essentials to get started.
Check out the article
The Law of Attraction
I really like how Jay is able to take a step back and see what he likes and follow just that. I like to surround myself with things that constantly remind me of what I like. Try setting your passwords to motivational phrases (like: dreambig or skysthelimit), changing your browser homepage, or place something inspiring in a room you’re always in — just little daily things to keep you in check.
I challenge you to take a step back: go for a run, get lost, drink some wine and ask yourself “Am I doing what’s worth doing?”.
Life is: short/scary/awesome — just deaux it.