Cedric Taylor, better known to fans of Delano Barbecue Company as “Pit Man,” is usually up to something. Cooking a special dinner for his mother, organizing a special day for his kids, clicking away on his cell phone looking for new recipes, surprising a coworker with a favorite treat for their lunch break – it’s all in a days work for the Louisiana-born smoke master.

“I’m always cooking,” laughed the 30-year-old, “I start here, lighting the smokers about 4:30 every morning, then I cook more when I get home. Guess it’s a good thing I love it.”

The father of three spent his youth in Louisiana, near the Texas border. He grew up with folks around him grilling and smoking meats. Locally, that meant lots of oak and mesquite but now, managing his own smokers Taylor tends to favor pecan. The primary wood used at Delano Barbecue Company, pecan burns slowly and gives meats a delicate yet pungent flavor. Taylor, who has worked with pasta at Noodles & Co., began working seriously with meats and even exotic meats (rattlesnake, boar) at the now closed Gobi Grille. Taylor educated himself about the various cuts of meat and his expertise grew – now in the holiday season expertly juggling dozens of hams and turkeys for customers while preparing meats and side dishes for hundreds of customers every week.