From firing range to firing up the barbecue

By Ed Brock

Clayton County Sheriff's Firing Range Master C.R. “Butch” Ballard has a passion for cooking that matches his zeal for law enforcement.

Fortunately for him he's been able to combine the two throughout much of his 24 years with the sheriff's office. And now that he is close to retirement from the sheriff's office, 50-year-old Ballard has opened up Ballard's Southern Style BBQ on Hastings Bridge Road in Lovejoy.

“Business has been pretty steady,” Ballard said. “We've picked up a lot of local regulars.”

Ballard's love of cooking started in his youth.

“When I was a child I spent most of my time in the kitchen with my grandmother watching her cook,” Ballard said.

Shortly after coming to work for then-Sheriff Bill Lemacks Ballard was recruited to help the sheriff in cooking barbecue for charity events, their fellow law enforcement officers and people around the courthouse.

“We've had a lot of fun cooking together,” Lemacks said. “He's really interested in what he's doing and he puts a lot of effort into it.”

Lemacks taught him everything he knows, Ballard said, and he also picked up quite a few fans.

“That's one thing that's kept us going is police department and sheriff's department people and people down at the courthouse,” Ballard said.

Ballard is taking the “low and slow” route to success with his restaurant business.

Low temperatures, slow cooking times, that's the key to good barbecue, the secret Ballard learned in his years of competitive barbecue cooking.

“And have a sauce that will actually compliment the barbecue without overpowering it,” Ballard said.

He hopes that these secrets will allow his restaurant to stand out from other barbecue joints.

“Competition barbecue, that's some of the best barbecue in the world,” Ballard said. “What I wanted to do was bring competition style barbecue into a family style, sit down restaurant.”

He has six employees and a partner, A.E. Mann. The menu includes a regular size chopped pork sandwich called “The Porker” and its big brother, “Porkzilla,” chopped beef, racks of ribs, corn nuggets and peach or blackberry cobbler. Starting Nov. 1 they'll have country meats and vegetables.

Billy and Jennie Ward of Lovejoy stopped in for lunch on their way to a hunting trip. They learned about the restaurant from their son.

“He said he came down here and tried it and they had good food,” Ward said. “Good food, good service, good atmosphere.”

But financial success isn't the only goal Ballard has for his restaurant.

“I just love to barbecue,” Ballard said. “They say when you retire you should do something you love.”