Smoky and Sweet: Southern Chefs Raise Funds for Damaged BBQ Joint

Kelly English, John Currence and other celebrity chefs join in fundraising tour.

ByJoanna Prisco
January 07, 2014, 5:50 PM
PHOTO: Scott's BBQ in Hemingway, S.C., Nov. 14, 2013.
Scott's BBQ in Hemingway, S.C., Nov. 14, 2013.
DaseinDesign/Flickr

Jan. 7, 2014— -- Cutting wood and stoking flames at Scott's BBQ, a longstanding 'cue destination in Hemingway, S.C., has always been part of the scene. But striking up an 8-foot-tall barrel the morning after a grease fire engulfed his smokehouse was a true testament to the spirit of owner Rodney Scott.

A second-generation pitmaster, Scott received news that his smokehouse caught fire in the early hours of Nov. 27, 2013 -- the day before Thanksgiving. While his adjacent store was spared, it would require serious funding to rebuild "The Pits" to what they were. Now a group of 'cue-minded chef friends, including Kelly English, John Currence and Donald Link, among others, have joined together to host a series of lip-smacking fundraisers under the banner of the "Rodney in Exile Tour."

“We just had a number of friends who wanted to do something to help,” said Currence of City Grocery Restaurant Group. "He is one of the most wonderful, dedicated and fun people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing."

Scott will co-host a special dinner every Monday night during the month of January, stopping at establishments such as Gunshow in Atlanta, Husk Nashville in Tennessee, Lamar Lounge in Oxford, Miss., and Cochon in New Orleans. In the meantime, City Grocery in Oxford, Miss., will be hosting concurrent pop-ups featuring other celebrity chefs, including Ashley Christensen and Eli Kirshtein. Event prices can range from $12 to $100, depending upon the location and style of cuisine being served.

"A lot of cooking that many of us do is inspired by BBQ," said Chef Kelly English, of Restaurant Iris in Memphis, who prepared slow-roasted veal shanks with a celery root puree and mushroom with horseradish at Monday night's pop-up. "Long processes of caring for specifically sourced meats speak to what BBQ has always been."

Currence echoed that sentiment.

"I wouldn't say the dishes are inspired by the menu at Scott's as much as the spirit that Rodney exudes: genuineness, honesty, generosity and humility," he said, adding that Monday's pop-up menu also included a simple meatball dish, a New Orleans-style Italian salad and an almond-flavored butter cake with buttermilk ice cream.

Scott is no stranger to lending a helping hand. A founding member of the Fatback Collective, a coalition of chefs, barbecue masters, purveyors and others who support the preservation of heritage animals as well as offering to "assist imperiled businesses and organizations that are rooted in place and rich in culture" he has long contributed money and resources to various communities throughout the South.

To be the recipient of the same kind of generosity has been nothing short of "Amazing!!!" Scott wrote in an e-mail to ABC News. "It showed that there are still a lot of great people out in the world."

It also reveals the sense of community pervasive in BBQ culture.

"The true brotherhood of BBQ, which includes some phenomenal female chefs as well, consists of pitmasters and chefs who don't mind sharing stories, styles or recipes without caring whose is better," wrote Scott. "Food and music makes people happy, and hopefully this combination inspires the entire world to live happy."

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