It all started in a garage
It all started in a garage
“4 Rivers had its humble beginnings. Just me, a smoker, and an age-old challenge—cooking brisket."
John Rivers never set out to create the most successful BBQ chain in Florida. He’s not a classically trained chef or graduate of culinary school. It was in Texas that he found the two loves of his life: his wife and the delicate art of brisket. And it’s been those very two godsends that inspired 4 Rivers as we know it.
John spent 20 years in the healthcare industry before retiring as president of a billion-dollar company. During that time, he had the opportunity to travel the country, honing his taste and talent for brisket perfection. As he soaked up the flavors and practices of ‘cue fare countrywide, John’s dream of de-regionalizing BBQ was born.
"This was never supposed to be a restaurant. My definition of helping meant doing what felt most natural when comfort was in order—feed those in need."
4 Rivers Smokehouse began with the launch of the “Barbecue Ministry” in 2004, when John hosted a cookout fundraiser to support a local family whose young daughter was battling cancer. This one event resulted in a passion for supporting local schools, churches, and charitable organizations, and a few years later, smoking thousands of pounds of meat out of a garage just wouldn’t cut it anymore.
After trials, tribulations, and a whole lot of burnt ends, we finally flipped that “Hot Brisket Now” sign on in October of 2009. Within the first hour, a line had formed out the door…and then around the corner.
Today, we have several locations across the state of Florida, with plans for continued expansion and more than 1,000 amazing folks on our 4 Rivers team. Most importantly, the Barbecue Ministry remains our foundation and focus, and will until the cows come home.
Why four Rivers? In short, it represents our family, John, Monica (wife), Jared (son) and Cameron (daughter). But they also appreciate the serendipitous double meaning with Genesis 2:10, where four rivers branch from that which flows out of Eden. Now you know!
Rivers’ concept immediately attracted local and national recognition, with two invitations to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in NYC, four consecutive invitations to present at the 2011 – 2014 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and appearances on NBC and FOX morning shows. He’s also been celebrated by USA Today, Paula Deen Magazine, FOOD Magazine, Cooking Light, Food & Wine, Cigar Aficionado, Restaurant Business, and TravelandLesiure.com, and named a finalist for the 2013 Florida Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2014, John Rivers published The Southern Cowboy Cookbook, a kitchen masterpiece that’s destined to become a classic.
We exist to use our God-given gifts to support the local community through exceptional products, steadfast customer service, and uncompromised integrity.
At the heart of our culture is a keen appetite for contributing back into the growth of the community, and with roots in ministry, we’re dedicated to supporting those in need. Good food and good people will build a stronger, safer, and kinder community. Join us in backing the multitude of impactful charitable organizations in our area, including Coalition for the Homeless, Arnold Palmer Medical Center, Foundation for Foster Children, Elevate Orlando, and the Florida Hospital and Foundation.View Donation
Don’t get us wrong, we love the Smokehouse to pieces. But in honor of our family’s roots, we’re adding to the stack with Southern comfort foods at The COOP and from-scratch desserts made by The Sweet Shop.
In summer of 2017, the Rosen School of Hospitality honored Chef John Rivers by inducting him into the Central Florida Hospitality Hall of Fame. This video, created by the university, was put together and played at The Pineapple Ball as a tribute to John. We are very humbled and grateful for this recognition.