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Reigniting Fire+Smoke

How Saving a Place for Date Night Became a Labor of Love

Article by West Knoxville Lifestyle Staff

Photography by South Made Marketing

Originally published in West Knoxville Lifestyle

Julia Child put it so simply, “People who love to eat are the best people.”

Enthusiastic foodies and recent transplants from Phoenix, Doug and Tara Snover had searched for a year in their new hometown for “our place” for a weekly date night. Among the many options in a thriving restaurant scene, Tara finally discovered the place in West Knoxville in August 2023.

“Everything about it was knock your socks off incredible,” Doug says. We went seven or eight times in less than three months making our way through an excitingly great menu. We became raving patrons.”

But the budding romance with Fire + Smoke was short-lived for the busy parents of three kiddos under five. One late October morning Tara called her husband, almost crying, “Our place just closed!”  

Doug, a project executive for a Knoxville general contractor, was driving to a ribbon-cutting for one of his projects. But, like his wife, he was shocked that the premier steakhouse they had come to love had closed so suddenly.

Tara remembered the chef’s name and before parking the car, Doug messaged him on Facebook. Within the hour after his event, Doug and Executive Chef Jared Martin had spoken and set up a meeting the next day. Jared explained to Doug that the owner came in that Monday during prep and announced they were closed immediately.  Jared had the hard task of calling the staff and telling them not to report to work.  

“Looking at their financials with Jared, it was clear the restaurant was really taking off. Through no fault of Fire + Smoke, it was shuttered as part of the whole portfolio.  My only question was if Jared and his team wanted to get the restaurant going again. The answer was a resounding yes," says Doug. "Feedback from patrons let us know they were devastated. It seemed time to act. I am a pretty impulsive person in some regard and like to act on things I feel good about.”

It became apparent there was a tight window for a go or no-go. They wanted to bring all the employees back, and Doug learned from the leasing company there were several restaurants interested in the space. After researching and developing a business plan, Doug and Tara made the decision within a week to step in and invest the money to save it.  

“We felt strongly that the West Knoxville community really needed and deserved a great restaurant that allowed people to stay near home and avoid the trek downtown,” Doug says. 

As a seasoned project manager in the building industry, Doug knew how to assemble the right team with all the skill sets needed to make the revival of Fire + Smoke a success.

Fortunately, Jared was part of an LLC with three other guys with the experience in the food service industry in Knoxville we needed,” Doug says. “So, we created a profit-sharing partnership agreement with them. It was a huge blessing to help achieve our goals.”

Doug cites their managerial consultant services in key areas of finance, marketing, special events, procurement, and operations as critical to driving a smooth relaunch.

After the decision was made, it was all hands on deck with the leadership team, which also included the restaurant’s inventive Bar Manager, Joe Trail, and server Mandy Glenn with front-of-house management and wine purchasing, to get the restaurant ready with inspections, licenses, permits, and restocking with food and beverage purveyors.  

Fire + Smoke relaunched with a friends and family soft opening on December 16 and a public opening on December 19 – just two months shy of its closing in October. The timely receipt of their liquor license the weekend before Christmas was a real gift. Solid marketing has brought a great resurgence of patrons – performing above pre-closing levels.

Known for its winning combo of Châtel Farms’ prime cuts, Appalachian ingredients, Southern flavors and artisanal cocktails, the only negative on its 4.99 Google reviews prior to closing was it’s expensive. The reopening strategy was to “take off some of the super high-end products, bring our prime cuts price down slightly, and round out the menu with chicken, fish and pasta dishes to offer accessible premium dining to more people,” Doug explains. “You can come in and have an extraordinary dinner with our high-end specialty cuts or enjoy your dining experience with a lower-end cut, but still a premium steak.”   

Tweaks included additional hours, opening Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.

“We wanted to give the Northshore business community a high-quality alternative to fast food at a competitive price – and a new weekend lunch option for friends and families to enjoy,” Doug explains. “Moving forward, we’ll maintain our incredibly high standard of quality, review feedback, and make small corrections for continuous improvement. That’s my methodology in business and in life.”    

Doug is big on speaking directly with guests for feedback. Tara adds, “But we also love dining and just blending in, observing and listening to our guests’ comments about their experience. Usually, they have no idea the owners are seated at the next table!”

“From the moment I saw our house on Zillow when we were still in Phoenix, I felt it was a calling to move here – that this is where God led us to be. And so far, everything that’s happened, the people we’ve met, and the friends we’ve made have all been amazing. We wanted to express our gratitude to this community.”

What began as a way to rescue “our place for our date night” became a whole lot more.

Doug sums up, “The opportunity to become a business owner in the West Knoxville community where we live was something we never imagined would come our way. This opportunity was so rare and different than we might ever get again – to invest in a high-performing machine, keep a creative chef and his team together, restore a beloved restaurant to its community, and treat potentially thousands of people to a premier dining experience.”

Doug and Tara chose Knoxville to move to in 2022 when they decided to leave Arizona after the passing of his parents and grandparents in a difficult season of loss.

“We were ready to start fresh. We were blessed to find the quality of life – the mountains and lakes and the “downhome” feeling of a small-town neighborhood – that we were seeking for us and our kids. Tara and I wanted to immerse our family in our new community … Fire + Smoke gave us a very special way to plant roots and invest ourselves in a meaningful way in our new home in West Knoxville.”     

Book reservations at      

“This rare opportunity gave us a very special way to plant roots and invest ourselves in a meaningful way in our new community in West Knoxville.”

"Tweaks included additional hours -- open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday and weekday lunch to give the Northshore business community a high-quality, competitively-priced option to fast food."

  • Châtel Farms 16oz ribeye
  • Pork belly confit with sweet potato puree, pickled red onions, spiced sorghum
  • Norwegian halibut with black eyed peas, crispy kale, lemon basil vinaigrette
  • Owners of Fire + Smoke, Doug and Tara Stover
  • Crème brûlée cheese cake
  • Norwegian halibut with black eyed peas, crispy kale, lemon basil vinaigrette