Pitmaster – A Passion for BBQ!

Being a pitmaster for Sonny’s isn’t just about having a title…it’s a whole lot more! It’s about having a passion for BBQ…it’s about being positive and caring about people.

It’s about paying attention to all the small details and knowing when there are problems and then working to identify the cause. It’s not just about being an expert in the Sonny’s BBQ culture…it’s about being an expert in the BBQ culture.

As you know BBQ To The Rescue is our local representation of Random Acts of BBQ by Sonny’s BBQ Headquarters. BBQ To The Rescue is the brainchild of Edward Titen, owner of the Palm Harbor, Largo, and New Port Richey Franchises. With the help of his team he was able to bring BBQ To The Rescue from concept to reality. It was his way of giving back to the communities that have supported him over the years. 

Edward, better known as Eddie to all who know and love him, is driven by a passion…not just for BBQ, but for all those that work with him daily in creating a culture that supports the communities where his franchise stores live. Eddie, his management team, and all those that work with Eddie work hard to give their customers that special Sonny’s BBQ experience.

He is very proud to have served as a team member on the Sonny’s 2015 Grand Champion Team under the phenomenal leader of Steve Lefkowitz. Eddie loves working and learning from his fellow pit masters and from all of his employees and team mates. Eddie often says, “If you listen to your fellow man/woman you can learn something new everyday; as every employee / team mate has a unique knowledge base which enables everyone to teach someone something new everyday.”


So it’s only fitting that 4 of the certified pitmasters are from Eddie’s franchise stores. It is our pleasure to share them here with you. Please help us congratulate these amazing men for all their hard work in becoming a certified pitmaster!  


Congratulations to Steve Lefkowitz, Palm Harbor, FL Sonny’s. Manager of Food Services and Equipment. Steve is our own Master Pitmaster who is passionate about making us all better pitmasters.

Steve is no stranger to BBQ – in fact, you may recognize him as the Grand Champion of our 2015 Sonny’s Annual Cook-Off! His high scores in both Ribs and Chicken earned his team this distinguished title. Steve has also competed in the Pigz in Zhills BBQ Competition, a Florida BBQ Association competition. Steve’s favorite part about competitions is the opportunity to talk with other BBQ enthusiasts and learn different techniques with smoking BBQ.

Steve has been a part of the Sonny’s family for over 30 years and is a great example of someone living our values every day. In fact, one of his favorite Sonny’s memories is when he participated in a rocking chair event to raise money for MDA and he rocked for 10 hours! What a great example of Putting Others First! 

Please join us in celebrating Steve’s official Sonny’s Pitmaster certification. Steve’s passion for BBQ, and his desire to serve quality products while creating a one-of-a-kind experience for our guests, are just a couple of the reasons we know he makes a great Pitmaster!


Congratulations to Derek Codol, Manager at the New Port Richey, FL Sonny’s! Derek has completed the requirements to become a certified Sonny’s Pitmaster!

You may have seen Derek at the Sonny’s Rib Cook-off in 2014, and you can expect to see him again this year. He’s a member of the Rub Me Tender Twice Competition team. He is always looking for ways to improve his BBQ knowledge – through competitions, reading, or working with other Pitmasters. And Derek has a love for sharing his knowledge as well as acquiring more. In fact, he recently prepared and served a Porchetta, which anyone familiar with BBQ knows is an incredibly difficult endeavor.

Derek has been part of the Sonny’s family for over a decade – that’s more than 10 years of loving the brand! He enjoys interacting with his guests, and is especially fond of the times when he is able to teach them something they didn’t know about BBQ. He prides himself on looking at each piece of meat in his Smoker as a work of art and working to serve every guest an incredible meal.

Please join us in celebrating Derek’s official Sonny’s Pitmaster certification. We know that his passion for BBQ, coupled with his desire to continually grow his knowledge, will make his journey as a Pitmaster one to watch.


Congratulations to Vincent Santamarina, General Manager for the Largo, FL Sonny’s! Vincent has completed the requirements to become a certified Sonny’s Pitmaster!

You might recognize Vincent from the awards ceremony at our 2015 Sonny’s Cook-Off when his team claimed the 3rd Place trophy for Chicken. Vincent is a truly passionate Pitmaster – he loves our craft and is dedicated to learning as much as he can about BBQ and how he can improve the guest’s experience. He knows the food is just one part though; he also makes sure to interact with his guests as often as he can.

Vincent has been an important part of the Sonny’s team for over a decade. He loves our brand and especially loves being part of the changes that help our brand thrive. In fact, his favorite Sonny’s memory is being an integral part of the Palm Harbor remodel – from hiring to training and helping to introduce the changes to both team members and guests. He is a self-proclaimed “people-person.”

Please join us in celebrating Vincent’s official Sonny’s Pitmaster certification. Vincent isn’t one to be satisfied with the status quo, so we know he will continue to seek out the opportunities that will expand his BBQ knowledge and use it to help spread the spirit of BBQ in his community.


Congratulations to Tanner Jester, Assistant Manager for the New Port Richey, FL Sonny’s! Tanner has completed the requirements to become a certified Sonny’s Pitmaster!

Tanner loves BBQ – and loves finding ways to elevate his own knowledge too. He competed in our recent Sonny’s Cook-off, and uses this event as a great opportunity to talk with other Pitmasters in the system. He also recently assisted in the preparation and presentation of a Porchetta, which for those of you who don’t know is when the body of the pig is gutted, deboned, and carefully arranged with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and smoked. In other words, a very difficult endeavor.

Tanner has been part of the Sonny’s family for nearly 5 years. He lovers the interaction he gets with guests during on-site Caterings – finding ways to laugh and joke with them, and to make those connections that will bring them into the restaurant as well as encourage them to continue to use our catering services. Tanner also likes to pay special attention to the Prep Cooks on his shifts since they are pivotal to the guest experience.

Please join us in celebrating Tanner’s official Sonny’s Pitmaster certification. Tanner’s desire to continually improve his BBQ knowledge, as well as to share it with his team and his guests, make his Pitmaster journey one to watch.

Congratulations to all of these guys for their accomplishments! We are all extremely proud of them and are proud to have them on the Eddie Titen Sonny’s BBQ Team!