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Financial adviser takes love of barbecue online

Green and red numbers flashed “Matrix”-style across Aaron Ralston’s black computer screen, a dizzying reminder of the financial world’s ins and outs.

And, while it’s only natural that computers play a role in the financial adviser’s career, he’s incorporated another aspect of his life online.

Ralston brought his passion for barbecue into the 21st century.

The Port Lavaca native developed thesmokerking.com, a sort of online barbecue encyclopedia, in 2005. At the time, the cooking connoisseur said, he wanted to combine his love of the grill with website knowledge he picked up in college.

“I’ve always enjoyed barbecuing and cooking outdoors, and wanted to sort of put that in journal form,” he said. “This was a good way to do that.”

The finished product was a one-stop shop where people could gather recipes – most of which Ralston developed himself – cooking tips, information on grilling equipment and more.

The site grew as time went on, and so did traffic. He averages about 90,000 visitors per month, some from as far as Japan and Korea.

Ralston said the decision to take his barbecue to the Internet was only natural.

The cooking method has gained popularity from entities such as Food Network, he said, and advancing technology means everything is online these days.

Ralston explained that taking the electronic route is also often more streamline and cost effective.

“I find you can go to the bookstore and there are a lot of recipe books,” he said. “But the Internet is basically free.”

Although cooking is one passion in the 31-year-old’s life, it isn’t the only thing that fills his time.

His job as a Wells Fargo financial adviser takes up much of his day, he said, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Numbers have always interested the father of two, but it was his time at Texas Tech University that led him to become an adviser. He discovered the university’s financial planning program his sophomore year and said something simply clicked.

“I enjoy helping people,” he said. “Everybody has different needs and it’s good to be able to work with them.”

Much like the market itself, Ralston said the adviser’s role changed over time.

“(People are) looking for more security,” he explained. “Your role is more as a counselor or mentor to them. There are a lot of uncertainties.”

Ralston has no plans to change career paths any time soon and said he will continue calling Victoria home. There is one upcoming change in his future.

He’s forming his first barbecue team.

The fledgling group, which now consists of just Ralston and his brother-in-law, Tommy Schulte, has a new trailer and big plans to try his skills against others.

With so many area cook-off events – at livestock shows, county fairs and more – the Crossroads is a great place to form a team, said Schulte, another barbecue team first-timer.

He said the team hopes to establish itself and possibly add new members before looking into larger competitions in cities such as San Antonio and Houston.

In the meantime, Schulte said he looks forward to working with his brother-in-law, a man he described as a jack of all trades who welds, cooks, builds and is always willing to lend a hand.

“He doesn’t know too many strangers,” Schulte said. “He’s a well-liked guy and he can do just about anything.”

As for Ralston, he said he also looks forward to the team’s future. And, while it will mean a lot of work ahead, he thinks they have all the right ingredients to make it work.

“Anybody can turn on a pit, but you have to really like what you’re doing,” he said. “You have to have a passion.”

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