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FORT MILL TOWNSHIP -- The restaurant may be new, but the owners' Fort Mill roots run deep.

Herb Tesh, a Tega Cay native, and Bob Bowman, husband of Nation Ford High School Principal Beverley Bowman, are joining forces, opening Fort Mill BBQ Co. last week in the Lowes Foods Shopping center.

The restaurant occupies the storefront that Sonny's Dutch Mill occupied before it recently closed at the corner of Gold Hill Road and S.C. 160 W.

Tesh is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University and a certified executive chef through the American Culinary Federation. He has been an executive chef in hotels and restaurants across the country while also launching his full-service catering business, Chef Herb Productions.

"Southern cuisine," such as barbecue pork, ribs and brisket, are Tesh's passion, according to his Web site, chefherbproductions.com.

Tesh brings that passion and his talent for Southern cooking to Fort Mill BBQ Co. while Bowman brings his years of sales and marketing experience. Together, the duo has expanded Tesh's catering business and, at the request of many of their clients, decided to open a restaurant.

"Our customers kept telling us that our food is incredible and they want to take their family to our restaurant," Bowman said. "So we're opening Fort Mill BBQ Co. as an outlet for our catering business."

Fort Mill BBQ Co. will feature smoked barbecue with customers' choice of Tesh's homemade sauce or a traditional mustard sauce. Also on the menu are ribs, brisket, chicken, smoked sausage and smoked wings. Sides include country-style green beans, macaroni and cheese and a Tesh specialty, maque choux.

The barbecue at Fort Mill BBQ Company is award-winning, Bowman emphasizes. Tesh travels around the country to Memphis Barbecue Association and Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned competitions with his barbecue team, Big Herb's Smokin' BBQ. He has frequently taken home top honors at the competitions, for his barbecue, ribs and chicken.

Prices at Fort Mill BBQ Company are reasonable, Bowman said, and the restaurant is casual.

"You'll eat and roll out of there going 'this is the best meal we've had for under 15 bucks,'" Bowman said.

In addition to the restaurant and catering business, Bowman and Tesh said they hope to give back to the Fort Mill community by sponsoring athletic teams and supporting the local school system. The restaurant's logo was designed by Kyle Cantley and Lindsey Maule, digital art and design students at Nation Ford High School.

"We want to become a staple in this community for years," Bowman said. "That's why we're doing this. We're trying to become part of this town."

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