It's Wednesday morning, which means Ron James is doing what he does almost every morning: firing up the smoker and cooking up some beans and collard greens.
The secret to his beans, Ron says, is that they’re cooked under the brisket while it’s smoking, resulting in an unbelievable flavor. The trick to the collard greens, as any Southern transplant living in the Tetons can attest, is equal parts ham hocks and homegrown tradition.
Ron and his wife, Retta Feller, are the owners of Captain Ron’s Smokehouse and R&R Catering. They are also the businesses’ sole full-time employees, and you would be hard pressed to find two more hard-working people — or better tasting brisket — on this side of the Mississippi. The pair met while working at the Hatchet Resort in Moran in 2011, ran the kitchen together, got married, and eventually opened up their own catering business in 2016. They added their brick- and-mortar location, Captain Ron’s Smokehouse, to the mix in 2019.
Ron says, “Retta is a tough cowgirl from Missouri, and I’m a Mississippi boy. We have our roles in the restaurant, but we help each other out when we need it. Most importantly, we know our weaknesses.”
The altruistic attitude that upholds Ron and Retta’s relationship extends to friends, neighbors, and even strangers. When the virus hit Teton Valley, the pair kept the smokehouse open for take-out and made deliveries to community members who didn’t feel comfortable leaving their homes. They partnered with US Foods to sell cases of food at wholesale prices to vulnerable citizens — saving them risky trips to stores with often empty shelves. When Ron and Retta found out that their neighbors on the Wind River Reservation were having trouble accessing clean water and that school lunches were reduced to a granola bar and a carton of milk, they raised $15,000 and ended up delivering 12,000 cases of food to the reservation.
Ron says, “We truly love the Teton Valley community. We try to help in any way we can: by bringing folks meals when they are in the hospital, by offering free hot dogs to kids in the summertime who don’t have access to school lunches, and by feeding our community’s seniors, hospital employees, sheriff’s department, and frontline workers. If someone needs something, we try to make sure that need is met; it’s really that simple.”
Ron and Retta’s characteristic selflessness hasn’t gone unnoticed. In February, their outdoor kitchen caught fire, leaving Ron with third-degree burns and considerable financial loss. The community responded by quickly raising $10,000 to help them rebuild.
This summer, Captain Ron’s Smokehouse will continue to offer all of the fan favorites — BBQ ribs, Southern-style green beans, and the best burgers in town — in a casual, familial atmosphere that includes outdoor patio seating. R&R Catering offers a private chef service and caters events from four to 250 people in size. Just make sure you don’t miss Ron’s famous pulled pork, which relies on an award-winning recipe that placed first in two national pulled pork championships. For anyone who knows Ron, it is hardly surprising that he managed to secure the coveted, award-winning recipe: he is just that likable.