By Natalie Simms
What started out as three friends cooking a low country boil for their own Halloween party has evolved into an outlet to give back to the community. Cartersville residents Josh Brock, Bryan Canty and Tom Shinall, collectively known as the “BoilMasters,” now have quite a following for their popular events.
“It all started about 10 years ago,” says Shinall, who also serves as the Director of Development for Savoy Automobile Museum. “Josh and I grew up together and we met Bryan working football broadcasts through our local radio station, WBHF. As our friendships grew, so did our interests.
“We are each foodies…we love preparing, cooking and eating…especially if it is a food experience. Josh learned at an early age from his grandfather how to cook and prepare low country boils and Bryan is a former restaurant owner and chef. During one evening of hanging out, we were discussing opportunities of trying something new and fun. We landed on low country boils.”
Their first boil went over so well, they started doing them a couple times a year for their core group of friends and family. And then, others started calling on them for their services.
“About four or five years ago, we were approached by a local non-profit to auction off our services. By that time, enough folks had tried our boils for us to make somewhat of a name for ourselves,” says Canty, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Etowah Valley Humane Society.
“Once the charities came calling, we had to come up with a name, so we just called ourselves The BoilMasters. It’s just what we are.”
Brock, who is a financial advisor with Raymond James Financial Service, learned to cook boils and oyster roasts from his grandfather.
“Naturally, people were most interested in the boils because it is so unique. It is not very common to pour food out on a table, stand around said table and eat with your fingers,” he says. “To this day, that is what people are most surprised about. I say, ‘what better way to enjoy a meal than standing around good food laughing, enjoying your favorite beverage with the people you care about?’ True community comes from around the boil table.”
The BoilMasters are not caterers to the general public; however, they do offer their expertise to benefit local non-profits. Their boils/services have been auctioned to help local charities raise funds. They have done just more than 50 events in the last 10 years, averaging to about five per year.
“We have worked on our process to come up with what we believe is an ideal way to prepare, season, cook and serve an exceptional low country boil,” says Brock. “But we are not exactly caterers. All but one of our events have been benevolent in nature. Our primary goal was to do something we love to help those less fortunate in our community. None of us could have expected it to reach the popularity it has locally.
“Most of the events we cook for are parties that have been purchased at a fundraiser in our community. That has been our focus to date. Generally, our boil is paired with some type of musical entertainment and auctioned off. Over the years, we can say that nearly $25,000 has been raised for local non-profits by people who have purchased our boil/music package.”
Recently, the BoilMasters fed 150 people for a pre-wedding party that included lots of visitors from the San Francisco Bay area. This was their largest event to date.
“Each of us have been blessed and we want to be able to bless others, and for us, this is just a great way to do it,” says Shinall. “As for numbers, an average boil is in the 20-30 people range. We have done a couple of events in the 125-150 range. With all that being said, we could comfortably serve upwards of 200 at any given event.”
Their low country boil is a ‘one-pot wonder’ seafood dish mainly consisting of shrimp, crab legs and clusters, andouille sausage, crawfish (when in season), corn, onions, potatoes and their special blend of juices, liquids and spices.
“We’ve been known to add mushrooms, brussel sprouts and even lobster tails,” says Shinall. “As part of the experience, tradition calls for pouring the contents over a paper-clad table, served family style as attendees gather around to partake together. Clean up is a breeze and there is no need for any condiments. We purchase, prepare, cook and serve the food and we provide the supplies – cookware, tables, crab forks, seafood mallets and crackers. Our rule of thumb – the more people you have, the more pots we bring!”
The three are all very busy with their daily work schedules and families but they say their time together as The BoilMasters is truly a brotherhood they enjoy being a part of.
“We all have very hectic schedules that don’t lend themselves to us seeing each other as often as we would like. Doing the boils provides each of us the opportunity to slow down, breathe and fellowship with each other. Boiling affords us quality time as brothers. Truth be told…it’s ‘our’ time,” says Canty.
Brock agrees. “Tom and Bryan are guys I admire, and time spent with them is a treasure. We have laughed and cried together over the years but our time together as the BoilMasters is a true refuge. We are all very busy but that time is our time and we love it.
“We can’t add time to our days, so we are intentional to make time for each other and our community. The level of importance each of us places on the time we spend together planning and executing a low-country boil is pretty high. We do that mainly because we know the fun and good times that will be shared.”
As for the future, the BoilMasters aren’t sure where their cooking passion will lead. They do plan to continue to offer their services for charity but are not sure about branching out to the public.
“Who knows where this can/will go? I don’t know that we ever expected it to catch on the way it has. We will definitely continue to do them for charity, but maybe we can make a dime or two to help offset some of the investment costs associated with the equipment we have purchased. We’re certainly up for it,” says Canty.
Shinall adds, “Only time will tell. For whatever the future holds, we will continue to do it as a family!”