The first thing Guy Hughes remembers cooking is a hamburger.
''I had smoke everywhere, but it was great,'' he said.
The only problem was that Hughes was 7 years old at the time, and he waited until his parents were gone and his older siblings were occupied elsewhere before deciding to start his culinary career.
Guy Hughes serves up his baked chicken along with side dishes such as macaroni and cheese, corn and mashed redskin potatoes.
''I got my butt whupped when they got home, because I was too young to use the stove,'' he said.
His cooking efforts tend to get a better response these days.
Hughes has been feeding folks his barbecue for more than 30 years. While he's operated various restaurants over the years and opened Guy's Award-Winning BBQ Carry Out last fall at 2545 Belmont Ave. on the Liberty / Youngstown line, many have enjoyed his ribs and barbecued chicken from his catering trucks at festivals and events throughout the Mahoning Valley.
1 whole chicken, cut into eight pieces with skin on and bones left in
1 stick of butter
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1 can (about 2 cups) chicken broth
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Arrange eight pieces of chicken into a 9-by-13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle the meat with the garlic, seasoning salt and paprika so that the top of the chicken is lightly coated with each.
Sprinkle flour on top of the chicken.
Cut the stick of butter into pats and place on top of the chicken.
Put the chicken in the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn down the heat to 300 degrees.
Mix the can of mushroom soup with the chicken broth and pour over the chicken.
Put dish back in the oven and cook for another 30 minutes until the gravy forms and the chicken is cooked through.
He's been a part of the Mahoning Valley Rib Burn Off (now known as the Eastwood Rib Fest) since it started and frequently tops the national rib cookers in the awards.
And even those who don't eat the ribs he cooks depend on him to make their own barbecue dishes better. Guy's BBQ sauces are sold by regional and national retailers and have been featured in Saveur magazine and on the popular food website Hungry Girl, and the sugar-free varieties have been championed by professional bodybuilder Jay Cutler.
But Hughes doesn't live by barbecue alone.
It was watching his mother in the kitchen that cultivated his love of food, long before he ever considered turning it into a career.
''My mom was a phenomenal cook,'' Hughes said. ''I was always on her apron watching what she was doing. She could take next to nothing and make it taste like it was something special ... She could go outside and pick dandelions, clean them and you'd think you were eating the best greens you'd ever had in your life.''
When Hughes and his wife, Lynn, are cooking in their Braceville home, they prepare dishes with a traditional southern flair.
''I stick to the basics, meat and potatoes,'' Hughes said. ''I love chicken. My wife says I need to eat more chicken.''
And one of his favorites to make is a dish he calls Guy's Baked Chicken.
''I played around with it and played around with it,'' he said. ''It's something that if I had a full-service restaurant, I'd probably serve.''
The one addition that really changed the dish was deciding to add a can of mushroom soup mixed with chicken broth to create a gravy. It not only goes well with the meat, but it is great spooned over the mashed redskin potatoes he usually serves with it.
There may have been some trial and error in developing the recipe, but Hughes said it doesn't need any tinkering now.
''Once I make it, I make it the same way every time, unless I'm missing something and have to substitute. And my family is the first one to say, 'What did you do different?'''
Despite getting a lot of attention these days for his sugar-free barbecue sauces, Guy's Baked Chicken won't be mistaken for diet food, thanks to a stick of butter that makes the chicken extra succulent.
''This is a Paula Deen chicken.''