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Whatley

Grove Station addition enjoying new setting

By Will Whatley

When my boss, Grove Station’s Corrie Sid, told me the firefighter’s fundraiser concert would just be a short walk from the store’s spot on Sistrunk, I couldn’t wait to tell my kids. If you attended the event and saw two little ginger devils attacking the day, those are mine.

It was also a personally exciting event for me as it was the first community affair since I relocated from Montgomery a few months ago. There’s a seriously insane and long story behind the move, but after Covid I had to find a new line of work after my PR career sputtered out like a cheap used car.

The Internet meme about 30 year-old men choosing between WWII history and smoking meats is pretty spot-on. About a decade ago, I got into making my own barbecue at home and I loved the opportunity to freewheel things like making my own seasonings and spices. I messed around with different combos of smoking woods to see what struck my fancy, and I’d figure that since I’d have a fire going for most of the day, I might as well make a bunch of it. Something about being around the smoke for 14 hours satisfied my barbecue itch, so my friends and neighbors ate a LOT of average-at-best barbecue. I’ll never forget my lovely, salt-of-the-earth, Godly neighbor thanking me for the delicious brisket when I’d given her a pork butt. So while obviously not the best, the sense of feeding others felt great.

When early 2023 rolled around, I’d been out of work for almost a year and wasn’t doing great in general. But the Alabama Career Center System started offering a meat cutter’s course due to the urgent need for meat cutters in grocery stores. I took the course thinking I could at least use it in trying to improve my work on the grill and smoker, but responsibly playing with knives is pretty fun. I was quickly hired by a high-end grocery store in Montgomery where I was able to hone my butchering skills while working in a food prep environment.

I don’t think it’s a secret that folks want out of Montgomery, but I was pretty excited when I had the opportunity to come to Tallassee. It’s a great community, less-stressful pace of life, and folks who seem to appreciate things more.

But additionally, there is a culinary history here. We’d drive 30 minutes to eat at Hotel Talisi. I remember the first time my parents took my brothers and I to eat there. My childhood chubbiness wasn’t too happy with the wait to eat, but hoo buddy when I got there I made the most of it. After that initial visit, if I wasn’t full-on salivating by Shorter, I was likely sick.

The Whatley kids at the recent Sounds and Sirens concert in downtown Tallassee

Being here today and seeing where the food scene sits currently, I feel extremely blessed. There are some very fine establishments here that cover a variety of American cuisines. But the opportunity to both cook, and hopefully keep the meat counter fully stocked, in a town with a solid culinary history at a place like Grove Station is something else.

At Grove Station, in addition to cooking as previously said, I’m cutting the steaks and seafood at the dinners later in the week. Being there has been a very positive learning experience. After the lunch shift ends and the afternoon staff arrives, the place does turn into a food lab. I’m learning so much from guys young enough to be my sons, and I’m not fully sure how I feel about that, but the ideas that go into trying the smallest of things is astounding. To say I’m excited is an understatement.

If you’ve managed to stick around this long, I’m Whatley at Grove Station. Currently I’m trying some various things to see if I can find some signature offerings to the grill masters among us but most importantly I’m excited to be here and stuff your belly. I’ll be honest, I have some ideas that work pretty well after receiving feedback from a coworker who might be a third of my size, but that kind of collaborative effort fostered at Grove Station results in a culinary experience that’s hard to top.

So, after all that, I really appreciate your attentiveness and I’m eager to add an extra wrinkle to what’s building here in the community. I’ll leave you with this-I come by being a big boy earnestly, so I sure hope I can feed you and have you leaving riding high.

I sure hope to meet you in person soon!