School of Communication alumnus Andrew Koster, ‘10, talks about how his non-traditional student journey set him up for success as an author and BBQ influencer
By Colin Bowyer, Communications Manager - February 5, 2024
Growing up in rural Willamette Valley, Andrew Koster’s dad was one of the first employees of Traeger Grills in Mt. Angel, OR, but as a young adult, Koster never imagined he’d also enter into the pellet grilling world.
Koster started at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, before pausing his studies to start a family and raise two daughters with his wife in Silverton. When considering going back to school, Koster saw the new media communications (NMC) program at OSU as an opportunity to gain valuable, real-world skills and experience, as well as advancing his interests in journalism and digital media. But it wasn’t easy.
Koster remembers juggling his job at a local grocery store and volunteering at KBVR-TV, in addition being a full-time student and father.
“I would stay at home in the morning, work in the afternoon, then head to Corvallis for classes and volunteer work at KBVR,” Koster recalled. “It was a chaotic and stressful couple of years, but what made it immensely easier was having the support of my wife and help from family members who lived nearby.”
The NMC program, still early in its development in 2009, provided Koster the academic flexibility to take classes that fit his schedule, as well as offer a wide breadth and diverse course curriculum, allowing him to focus on his interests. Some of Koster’s favorite classes included Media Theory, taught by the late Bill Lodges, and Field Production, taught by Todd Kesterson (Koster fondly remembered how many of his video production projects involved his two daughters), but it was former journalism professor Julia Sandidge that suggested to Andrew to build his media and video skills.
“My original intent after graduation was to enter into the journalism field, either writing for a newspaper or in front of a microphone,” said Koster. “In this rapidly changing media and journalism landscape, Professor Sandidge recommended to be proficient in more than just writing to be better adaptable, which I took to heart.”
After graduation, Traeger Grills had outgrown Mt. Angel was growing and hiring more office jobs. Koster saw this as an opportunity to immediately put to use his writing and marketing skills acquired from the NMC program. Koster joined Traeger, where his father continued to work, and began writing instructional and promotional materials while managing the company’s customer service side, as well as helping with its social media channels.
“You have to remember,” explained Koster. “Traeger started as a small company based in small-town Mt. Angel and not the national brand that it is today.”
After five years at Traeger, Koster moved to Dansons, an international consumer goods company that also specializes in manufacturing pellet grills, and fully embraced his digital media background. Koster started making BBQ content on his own and grew his own social media presence. He now has tens of thousands of followers on Instagram and TikTok, showcasing pellet grill recipes, tricks, and tips.
Despite not being a professionally trained chef, Koster’s lifetime experience around pellet cooking and working in the BBQ industry attracted the attention of publishers. Koster was approached to write a pellet grill cookbook in 2017, ultimately publishing his first book in 2019, titled Master the Wood Pellet Grill: A Cookbook to Smoke Meats Like a Pro, which is an introduction to the widely-popular and approachable pellet grills anyone can purchase at a local hardware store.
“I wanted to give potential first-time customers a baseline of knowledge to create a positive experience grilling,” explained Koster. “These are basic and simple cooking concepts and methods, in addition to recipes that are based on my everyday cooking.”
Koster acknowledges that the biggest mistake he observes with first-time pellet grill users is immediately cooking difficult pieces of meat before learning the basics. “You see so many great videos on Instagram or TikTok of chefs cooking these delicious briskets, but it’s just not possible to start off that way,” said Koster. “I hate to see meat go to waste and I don’t want people to have a terrible experience with their BBQ.”
Koster’s second and third books, Super Easy Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker Cookbook: 55 Effortless, Full-Flavor Recipes and Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker Cookbook for Beginners: Easy Recipes for Backyard Barbecue Excellence respectively, dive into slightly more advanced cooking on the pellet grill.
Koster attributed his journalism and media writing classes at OSU that made the book development process relatively painless and straightforward.
“Though I didn’t end up as a journalist,” Koster concedes. “I was still able to utilize the practical skills from the NMC program and create something wonderful that’ll hopefully help others.”