From the halls of Kathleen High School to appearances on the Food Network and the Dan Le Batard Show, seven-time barbecue grand champion Chad Ward has grilled his name into the walls of barbecue greatness.
Visit Central Florida is proud to partner with Ward and Whiskey Bent BBQ on a series of projects that seek to raise the national awareness of Polk County’s barbecue heritage. From videos on social media to creating a unique, locally sourced rub, Ward will be Polk County’s unofficial tsar of char.
“Chad has brought more attention to Polk County’s contribution to the culinary art of barbecue than anyone else around,” said Mark Jackson, the Director of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing/Visit Central Florida. “And he’s a great guy. From representing the county while grilling in Detroit or Columbus to offering his signature products in our Welcome Center, there is no one better to serve as an ambassador to the county and our food than Chad Ward.”
Ward, the proprietor of Whiskey Bent BBQ, aims to elevate the barbecue IQ of everyone from competitive grillers to cul-de-sac hacks with the opening of his new, more than 15,000 square foot facility at 2325 Commerce Point Drive, Suite 100, in Lakeland. Ward’s more than 15 year journey from Polk County barbecue pits to Hollywood and beyond started when the former director of sales for a technology company entered his first competitive barbecue competition. Less than three years later, he found himself on international television. While operating currently, the grand opening of the new facility will be held Sept. 16.
“Not bad for a kid from Lakeland who attended Kathleen High School,” said Ward.
Today, besides his business in Lakeland, he’s also the director of barbecue marketing for Traeger Grills.
The partnership with Ward is just a part of Visit Central Florida’s overall culinary initiative. Spanning everything from barbecue to ecotours and farm-to-fork, the partnership is the latest example of Visit Central Florida’s effort to elevate the awareness of Polk County’s burgeoning culinary scene.