When he was a little boy growing up in Sewanee, Tennessee, Kris Stubblefield would sit on a stool and stir pots full of simmering food for his mom.
By the time he was in middle school, he had a ritual of cooking a recipe from "The James Beard Cookbook" every Friday night. Then, when he was old enough to work, he got a job as a cook at Shenanigans, a gathering spot for students attending the nearby University of the South.
Today, Stubblefield, 37, is one of the international faces of cast iron cooking. At the sprawling Lodge Manufacturing Co. plant in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, his title is simply "chef." His wife, Masey is a fifth-generation relative of the Lodge company founder, Joseph Lodge.
After attending Georgtown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, Stubblefield worked in real estate in Washington D.C. for a time before he and his wife decided to come home to Tennessee about a decade ago.
"Some jobs popped up at Lodge Cast Iron, and I interviewed for some positions in the marketing department," Stubblefield explains.
As he settled into a marketing job, leaders of America's oldest cast iron cookware company realized that they needed a test kitchen to make sure the company's new products were up to standard. Things such as heat distribution, non-stick capabilities, thermal shock and warpage had to be tested and measured.
Stubblefield's cooking background made him a perfect candidate for the new position of "chef" that would test products and also create content for the company's growing social media presence.
The culinary center, where Stubblefield works, is located in the Lodge Museum of Cast Iron, the brilliantly executed new homage to company history which opened in South Pittsburg late last year. The center contains two brightly-lit kitchens designed for testing products and providing a backdrop for video shoots.
"Everybody is a foodie these days," Stubblefield says. "We started to need to make recipes and take pictures of the things I was cooking."
A family man, Stubblefield also cooks for his family, which includes three young children. Two of their favorite dishes are pancakes and skillet-baked spaghetti.
Recently, the cookware company's marketing department started a "Recipe of the Month" project that will be shot in the Lodge culinary center and pushed online to the company's Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok channels.
The Lodge Manufacturing Co. plant includes two foundries, and the whole operation employs more than 500 people, Stubblefield says. The company is known for its sand-molded cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, carbon steel pans, bakeware and more that are sold by retailers including Williams Sonoma, Ace Hardware and Walmart.
"Every day is new, every day is a challenge," Stubblefield says of his job. "I get to work with some incredibly talented people, some of the hardest working people anywhere. And we represent the coolest cookware on God's green earth."
* Age: 37
* Hometown: Sewanee, Tennessee
* College: Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky
* Current Residence: Chattanooga (Northshore)
* Family: wife Masey, three children