If I were on a sinking ship, Chester Dugas, owner of , is the guy I'd want as Captain. Not only would my last request be his thoroughly lip-smackin’ barbeque, he’s commanding by nature and succeeds at all costs.
Chester is a guy that rides the hard edges of life to get what he wants, and yet remains fiercely loyal to those closest to him. Flanked by a dedicated wife, family and employees, Dugas knows how to build a business for success: low and slow, with a dash of perfectionism and a lot of hard work.
One of four brothers, Chester is from East Lyme, where he graduated East Lyme High School in 1980. After high school, he had no desire to attend college, so he joined the Marine Corps. For the next four years, he was stationed in the California desert of Twentynine Palms.
After serving, he found respite in Kansas City with an older brother, and attended college. Educated in culinary and restaurant management, he worked years for others, then eventually came back to Connecticut.
His primary reason for returning was to help his mother care for his sick father, but with all his brothers in the immediate area, he decided to stay to be near his family. After his father died, Dugas opened Chester's Barbeque with his brothers and wife.
Chester considers himself a “food guy” throughout, and says he loves the food service industry.
“The whole thing is my vision," he says. "My brother Skip does project management, my wife helped execute my design, and here we are.”
Dugas settles for nothing but the best, which includes teaching our locals that authentic barbeque is the slow cooking and smoking of meat over low heat. The outcome is a tender and flavorful bite.
“I don’t try to complicate things," Dugas says. "As a matter of fact, I try to make things real simple. It’s not about the sauce. It’s what you put the sauce on. Fifteen hours we smoke the beef brisket - nobody else does that.”
Eventful moments at Chester’s include live blues and customers attempting to conquer the Chester Sampler - more than 4 pounds of food including 3 types of barbeque, ribs, chicken sides and cornbread. When eaten by a single customer within an hour, Chester’s crowns the champion by paying for the meal.
Chester and Anne live in Groton and spend much of their day running the business, but when they go out, they appreciate good food and service. Chester says he likes Anthony J’s, or for a change of scenery, he enjoys riding the trails of Bluff Point or back roads on his bike.
He sees a second restaurant in the future and plans to apply his accumulated experience to consider a smaller, more intimate venue.
“It’s not about the money…the money will come if you have the passion," he says. "We’re going to stick with what we do and we’re going to do it really well. If people want really good barbeque, they are going to come here.”