Kenneth Holland has always been fond of backyard grilling and spending time with family. After retiring from service in the military, Kenneth developed an even greater passion for the science behind famed barbecue. Intrigued by competition BBQ, he joined Sam Huff and Dave Poe – two close friends and legends of the local scene to learn “all things barbecue.”
“They were both my mentors and friends,” Kenneth added. “They…gave me opportunities to help in and around many aspects of the industry.”
With experience under his belt, Kenneth created a professional competition team in 2010. For the next eight years, he, along with his wife and two daughters, participated in several competitions including Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) and Georgia Barbecue Association (GBA) sanctioned events.
What began as an avid hobby quickly became Kenneth’s career of choice. His passion and hard work afforded him many opportunities, including selling barbecue on the weekends at the Alpharetta Farmer’s Market for three years and winning a “Grand Championship” at one of the many barbecue competitions in which his team competed.
Earlier this year, the 2015 Culinary Apprenticeship graduate and military veteran opened his restaurant – Major Q BBQ & Catering – in Marietta. The family-owned business consists of his wife and two daughters. Major Q BBQ combines quality ingredients with traditional cooking techniques like those he learned from his cooking competitions.
“[For the cooking competitions,] we had to prepare the meat in a manner to emphasize taste and experience for the panel of judges that score your plate,” Kenneth said. “Each meat product served is trimmed to get just the right amount of fat layer, injected or marinated to increase flavor, spice rub blends are created and applied that pair specifically for the meat being cooked. All meats are cooked at low temperatures with a wood chosen to add an additional layer of flavor. When I opened my restaurant, I wanted to provide this same experience to my customers.”
For Kenneth, the Culinary Apprenticeship program combined with his experience laid the foundation for his successful career in the restaurant business. The eight-month program was the perfect solution. “I had no experience with the restaurant industry and knew I had to get some basics to be successful,” Kenneth said.
“[The] program combined classroom and hands-on training in professional, industry-leading kitchens. This was a natural solution to my needs. Cost of the program was also a consideration, as this program provides significant value for what was offered.”
With a B.S. in Agricultural Economics, a Masters in Management, and certified as a Project Management Professional with over 40 years of experience, Kenneth has held several roles throughout his career. Yet, one thing is sure: Each of those roles taught him valuable lessons that he’s putting into practice now.
“Given my career and work progression over the years there is not anything that I would have changed,” Kenneth said. “Each job that I have held over the span of my career has provided me with opportunities and developed my skills to help me deal with the challenges of daily operations and responsibilities in my current occupation.”
Walking through the door each day, turning on the “open” sign and working with his family is one thing Kenneth enjoys the most about the restaurant business. Seeing happy customers, building relationships with them and getting to know guests on a personal level is another.
“Our guests like the personal relationship touch from the owner,” Kenneth said. “They respond positively to being greeted by name, so I attempt to learn about them and to know them… adding that personal touch, I think, should be a behavior of an owner for success.”
Kenneth’s long-term vision is to continue building a legacy of success for his daughters. In the future, he hopes to expand and purchase his own space.