Where there’s smoke, there could be a cure.
For Colin Stann, it turns out smoking is good for his health, and his business.
Considering the challenges of his battles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Stann initially had little desire to start a business before he launched Heathen Smokehouse from his Langford home in February.
Stann’s first foray into culinary pursuits began in his teens at an Earl’s Restaurant in Calgary.
“I started as a dishwasher,” said Stann. “I worked my way to kitchen leader and Earl’s put me through an apprenticeship program. I worked as a chef in Calgary and then Victoria before I decided to get out of cooking because of very little pay for long hours.”
Stann did a career 180 and attended the Justice Institute of B.C. to train as a Correctional Officer. He worked at Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre, a provincial institution in Victoria for a couple of years before he got on federally with Corrections Services Canada, working at Kent Institution, a maximum-security facility on the Lower Mainland. “I worked mainly in the most dangerous units with the most challenging offenders.”
Stann moved back to Victoria and worked at William Head Institution in Metchosin from 2011 until he was diagnosed with severe PTSD in 2019.
“It was a culmination of many, many things rather than one specific incident,” he explained. “You see violence on a daily basis. I was undergoing a number of different treatments and looking for something during my struggles.”
He inadvertently found what he was looking for after his wife gave him a smoker for his 45th birthday in August of last year.
“It’s been therapeutic in terms of PTSD,” he said regarding his efforts smoking foods with a variety of woods, including cherry, mesquite, applewood, and hickory. “It renewed my love for cooking and has helped a lot with depression. It keeps my mind occupied, and it’s something I really look forward to.”
Stann decided to share packages of his smoked Gouda and cheddar, chicken, ribs, salmon, and Montreal-style beef brisket as Christmas presents for friends and family and was pleasantly surprised by the response.
“I didn’t seriously consider starting a business at first,” Stann said. “The restaurant industry in Victoria is extremely competitive. As word spread and more people approached me, I decided to put together a business plan. Not a lot of businesses specialize in custom smoked products.”
His Montreal smoked brisket is in brine for seven days, smoked for six to seven hours, then cooled overnight before it‘s steamed and packaged.
“I use a dark rum and maple glaze for the salmon,” Stann noted. “It’s unusual, but it’s getting rave reviews from all of my customers. I use my own recipe for all my rubs and spices.”
Business is growing rapidly, mostly through word of mouth and the time he spends at the Victoria Public Market. “Online ordering is really taking off,” he added. “I’m shipping to people across Canada. it’s really helped me interacting with people as well. A lot of people with PTSD have contacted me on social media about my product. It’s very rewarding when someone reaches out.”
Check out heathensmokehouse.com for more information.
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