From police officer to barbecue pitmaster, Sam Cielakie has had an interesting life journey, to say the least. Sam graduated from Fredericksburg Christian School with the class of 1996. He went on to attend Liberty University and enrolled in the police academy there before serving almost 18 years in law enforcement. Throughout his time in service, he received multiple awards, including the Detective of the Year Award for his work in undercover narcotics. Sam credits his lessons learned at FCS for instilling a strong sense of ethical responsibility in him.
“Having a biblical foundation going into law enforcement was very critical.”
Sam stumbled upon his passion for barbecue one day in 2005 when his wife and her friends needed a whole hog cooked for a work event. Without having any experience or knowledge on how someone should go about cooking a whole hog, he accepted the challenge. After digging a hole for the pig and cooking it overnight, he was met the next day with a black, crusted hog. To everyone’s surprise, it turned out delicious! After successfully completing his first major endeavor into the world of barbecue, Sam couldn’t stop. Unsatisfied with commercial barbecue sauces, he decided to create his own.
His first two sauces were an Original, which is a sweet tomato style sauce, and a Carolina-style sauce, a vinegar based sauce with heat and tomato. His family and friends couldn’t get enough of his new homemade concoctions. Suddenly faced with high demand, Sam began bottling the two products with his parents in 2011. “Barbecuing is a passion for me…it started as a hobby but then I couldn’t stop,” he said.
The Success of Sweet N Sassy BBQ
His passion for barbecuing continued to grow as he entered into professional barbecuing competitions, took classes, and continued to develop his traditional cooking skills as his knowledge grew. He resigned from law enforcement in March 2017, and partnered with a friend, James Sharon, and his father to open their now successful restaurant – Sweet N Sassy BBQ Company. His Original sauce has taken 1st place in multiple competitions in Virginia. In case being a father of two kids, a police officer, and a business owner wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Sam went back to Liberty and continued his education; earning a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling in May 2017.
Sam’s FCS Family
FCS still feels like home for Sam and he keeps in touch with his fellow classmates and teachers on social media. He enjoyed the small class sizes at Fredericksburg Christian, which made it feel like they were a family.
“The level of care that you got one on one at FCS really made it special.”
And the lessons he learned there still resonate with him today. He specifically recalls working on group projects in Ms. Raney’s class, where he first learned to really rely on others and use teamwork to get things done. Being a business owner, he relies on others every single day to accomplish tasks.
Today, Sam is happily married to his wife Brandie and has three sons: Jacob, age 13, Danny, age 6 and Mason, age 5. As a family, they enjoy going to Kings Dominion, fishing and camping in their free time. Sam is currently enrolled in Auguste Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts where he will graduate as a professional chef in 2018.