Food is one of the number one things that brings people together. It is iconic all over the world no matter one’s age, language, or background everyone understands delicious food. The Smokin 3 C’s of Mineral Wells understand that better than anyone. This local food truck and catering business put all their love and passion into each scrumptious bite.
The Smokin 3 C’s, is a family-oriented cooking team that consists of husband and wife, Chris & Cassie Van Natta, along with their son Cameron. However, their entire family plays a part in the business. Chris’s sister Tammy and Brother in law, Bud Crippen, own a catering business with them called, Salty Dog BBQ. The two groups also compete against each other in sanctioned cook-offs regularly.
The love for cooking really came from their father, Ronnie Van Natta. Cassie gives us some background, “Chris used to go to these cook-offs with his dad. His dad would bring his smoker. Ronnie would also always bring the hot dog weenies and ice. They especially did all cook-offs at Lake Palo Pinto. Well, his dad passed away in 2017 from cancer. And the one thing that Chris got after his passing was his daddy’s cooker. So we always cook on his dad’s cooker. That’s how it got started. We always do this in memory of him as a way to honor him.”… “They would spend summers there as a family. They would take their campers out there to spend the weekend cooking and having family time.”
Ronnie was not only exemplary to his family, but to the community as well. He was a fireman for the Mineral Wells Fire Department for twenty-one years. He and the family always participated in the annual volunteer fire departments banquet by cooking.
After Ronnie’s passing it was very difficult. Cassie tells us on Chris’s behalf of the turning point toward their dream. “So Father’s Day of 2017, was the first Father’s Day that they weren’t together. We all went out as a family. It was the first cook-off we did with his Daddy’s cooker. It was for the Palo Pinto County Bass Masters. And Chris actually won first place brisket on it.”
Since then the family has been catering, competing, and serving every chance they get. Cassie explains, “I’m a physical therapist assistant during the daytime, my husband builds ambulances, and then together we pedal barbecue at night.”
Despite having their careers, the love for BBQ has made them successful. The family is part of Lone Star BBQ Society which hosts sanctioned cook off’s, all over Texas. They have won several awards just within the past few years. The couple explained that every category: each team enters earns them points toward Coty. (Cooker Of The Year.)
The couple is proud to say that, “We made it to nationals in our first year of cooking in 2017, and every year since that, we have gone to nationals. We ended up being awarded eighth in the state for our meat, and we were second in the state for our beans in 2019.” The team also competes locally; they won the 2018 Grand champion Mingus ‘Merica Cookoff Christmas for the kids. Their son Cameron has also won several desert competitions with his Dutch Oven sopapilla cheesecake. Cassie has won first place for her chicken while cooking with a friend on their team the Cook-Off Cuties during the Smoke On The Water competition at Possum Kingdom Lake. This month they won the Food Truck Championship of 21’ for best BBQ in Graham with their signature dish, peach jalapeno glazed ribs. Chris remembers that day going by so quickly, “We started serving at eleven o’clock. We sold out by three o’clock.”
Smokin 3 C’s have formed so many friendships through these competitions. Cassie says, “We’re very close to our cooker family. They’re the people that we all go to the same competitions with. So we’ve made friends with people all across the state.” Chris followed that statement with, “It’s our family, cook family, and our personal family.”
The reason they have been so successful in their craft is that they take real pride in all they do. Cassie declares, “We make everything from scratch. It’s important to do it that way because that’s where we came from.” Chris however not only makes his food from scratch, but he doesn’t use any outside assistance. “I use my hand as a measurement. I do not use measuring spoons or anything like that. That’s what he eats my sister up. I’ll just throw stuff in there. She’s like, ‘I don’t understand how you win’.”
This family is so proud to be a part of our community. They are excited to share their success with all of us in Mineral Wells. Cassie expresses, “Mineral Wells has always held a special place in my heart. I don’t know what it is about this town. But I’ve always felt close to it. I’ve always felt close to the people in it.” Chris can’t wait to see what the future has in store. “I like the small-town feel. I am glad it’s finally growing.”
Writer | I graduated from Weatherford College with an Associates in Art, focusing on history, creative writings, sociology, and humanities. Experience in child development, client care, and runs local Spoken Word Poetry group for young teens.