Growing up in Missouri, Jon Peterson had a love for cooking, but it didn't become his career until later in life.
Before moving to Melbourne in 1993, Mr Peterson worked at a university teaching English, creative writing, introductory journalism, and research skills.
In Melbourne, Mr Peterson's work with Harley Davidson had him travelling across different states.
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"I did a couple of trips here to Tassie, and I just fell in love," Mr Peterson said.
"It reminded me of my hometown where I grew up - the size of the town and how it looked, a lot of things here were similar.
"I found it beautiful - Melbourne is nice to visit, but here is where I wanted to make my home."
Mr Peterson moved to Launceston in 2000, and decided it was time to follow his passion for cooking.
"When I moved down here and got divorced I decided that if I was going to change, I'd just change and do it now," he said.
"Just living in Melbourne I could see that people didn't have a conception of what American food is, and even a lot of Americans don't have a lot of an understanding of what this type of food is, it's very region specific."
The idea for a restaurant was born, and Mr Peterson opened the first version at Prospect at Richardson's Harley Davidson.
"We were called Highway One and were just finding our way. Most of that menu came here, it was more like a tuckshop there, an early version of food trucks," he said.
The restaurant became Smokey Joe's, named after Mr Peterson's family cat from childhood. A picture of the cat remained in the dining room at the restaurant.
The restaurant moved to Charles Street, before settling in its final home at Lawrence Street in 2006.
"We were the first, and the oldest, cajun and creole restaurant in the country," Mr Peterson said.
"It's something different, it's not something they teach at TAFE and you can't learn it on YouTube, it's about technique and experience.
"I've always use my family's recipes, and created everything from scratch - the sauces, the smallgoods, it was all done in our kitchen."
Jon's son Hunter has worked alongside him for most of the time, starting out working front of house and as a kitchen hand.
"He's become my right-hand man, my sous chef," Jon said.
"He was almost ten when we started, and he's grown up in the place. I had a couple of apprentices, they didn't stay but he did.
"I couldn't have done the last ten years without him."
Hunter said working in the kitchen with his dad was stressful at times, but he loved working alongside him.
"A kitchen is a very stressful environment," he said.
"But work is work, and home is home. It took a while, but we got used to it."
The Peterson's attribute their authentic style of cooking with bringing customers back for 20 years.
"It's not something you can replicate easily," Hunter said.
"Cookbooks in this type of cooking are often misleading on purpose, you have to know how to do it correctly."
"We're talking a part of the country [America] where they get a kick out of giving you wrong directions," John added.
"You ask someone where to go and you won't get there - it's not malicious, it's quirk - and they're like that with their recipes."
The secret to the cooking, according to Jon, is about the flavour and the technique.
"You get people that think if it's cajun and creole then it must be as hot as you can humanly withstand, and that's just dead wrong," he said.
"When we say highly seasoned it means it's got a lot of flavour, not that it's a painful experience."
"If you want it to be painful, that's what hot sauce is for," Hunter added.
November 7 marked the last dinner service at Smokey Joe's. Jon said there were a lot of factors that ultimately led to the decision.
"It'd be disingenuous to say COVID had nothing to do with it, it's just not viable," he said.
"Even though things are starting to open up I'm restricted to half my capacity, I can't make ends meet.
"I think it's better to leave when you're still having fun, I don't know how long it'll take to recover - I'm already 63.
"The three month shutdown showed me I don't mind not having the stresses of running a business so it put it in perspective.
One of the things both John and Hunter will miss the most are their customers.
"We've had people that 20 years ago came in with their grandparents and now they're bringing their children," Jon said.
He also credited the staff, including Hunter, with being the reason the restaurant was so successful for so long.
"Some of our staff have stayed with us for five to seven years, which is rare in hospitality," Jon said.
"They become like family - we had some who would leave and study, but come back and work the odd shift because they missed us and the customers.
"This place couldn't have existed without the crew that ran it - I had the idea and brought the recipes, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum, you can't do things on your own."
This place couldn't have existed without the crew that ran it - I had the idea and brought the recipes, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum, you can't do things on your ownJon Peterson
"I'm so proud of how long and how well we lasted," added Hunter.
"Most restaurants fail within six months, that's the average lifespan of a restaurant - so we're 40 times better than that.
"We changed the food scene here in Launceston and in Tasmania, and we're really proud of that."
When asked about future plans, Hunter said he was looking forward to a small break before heading into a new opportunity, while Jon was looking forward to "a relatively normal life".
"Over the 20 years I wouldn't say that I've never had a holiday, but mostly not," he said.
"We only shut between Christmas and the new year - and it took that long to recover from the busy season.
"Now a relatively normal life, with normal weekends, would be nice."
Retirement for Jon will involve more time for fishing - but it will also involve developing new projects.
"I'm looking at getting a fishing boat, only a small one to get to where the fish are. Nothing big or extravagant - just a tinny," he said.
"From next month, we'll begin doing some smallgoods, sauces and maybe a few other items that we'll sell, we'll make an announcement on our Facebook page soon.
"We're also going to be working on recipes for a cookbook in the new year."
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