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Chef With Down Syndrome Launches BBQ Business To Pursue His Passion And Give Back.

We never know what will inspire us. Maybe it’s a sweet childhood memory, or maybe it’s a hobby we’ve nearly mastered.

For Matthew Hessburg, who has Down syndrome, it came down to cabin visits and cooking.


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What unites these interests is his love of connecting with others. As he says, “Good food, good people, together we’re better.”

Matthew has always dreamed of becoming a chef. As a kid, he and his three brothers would spend hours experimenting with different dishes and eating them together. Meanwhile, every year they visited their grandparents’ cabin for 10 days. They spent that sweet time huddled around bonfires, eating s’mores and basking in each other’s love.


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When the time came to choose a college, Matthew decided to study hospitality and restaurant management at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. He did so with the support of their University Participant Program, which provides an on-campus experience for people with learning disabilities and then equips them with the tools they need for life after school.


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While he was still there, Matthew developed his culinary skills by working at Haywood Smokehouse. The experience encouraged him to create his own barbecue company, one that would capture his love of bonfires and community.

After a year of hard work, research, and development, Matthew’s Bonfire BBQ was born! It launched in 2019 and features two unique barbecue sauces (with more to come).


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Better still, Matthew is using his business to raise awareness and create opportunities for people with disabilities. He donates a portion of his profits to his alma mater’s University Participant Program and to Ruby’s Rainbow Scholarships, which go to individuals with Down syndrome.


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Matthew is such an inspiration. Not only is he following his dreams, but he’s also using them to make other people’s lives better! We can all learn something from the way he connects people through food and gives back to his community.

If you want to support Matthew’s mission, check out his delicious sauces, and make sure to share his story with your friends!


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