Rodney Scott is the first African-American to win the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Southeast and only the second barbecue cook to win a chef award from the JBF. He joins the HRN Happy Hour crew to talk about his much-deserved recognition, how Rodney Scott BBQ in Charleston is doing one year in, and plans for expansion to Birmingham, Alabama.
photo by Andrew Cebulka
About Rodney Scott
Rodney Scott moved with his family to Hemingway, SC when he was just one year old. His family opened Scott’s Variety, a convenience store and grocery of sorts located on the side of the old highway that ran through town. Although they sold local produce and cold drinks throughout the week, every single Thursday they did a little something extra: the Scott’s smoked whole hogs. The intoxicating smell of smoked pork was enough to bring in all the locals, but the flavor of the Scott family’s whole hog BBQ is what kept them coming back.
The Scott’s built their own hog pits out back behind the store and fired them up with hardwood coals. Young Rodney was just 11 years old when he cooked his first whole hog, and it couldn’t have come a day sooner. As word began to spread about the Scott’s weekly BBQ feast, more and more people were hankering for a taste. It turned out that just one day a week of whole hog BBQ was simply not enough. By the mid 1980’s they moved to smoking hogs two days a week, and before long two days turned into three. Finally, in 2012 they added a fourth day, offering old-fashioned whole hog BBQ every week from Wednesday through Saturday.
But it wasn’t just locals that were eating all those hogs. People drove for hours — from Charleston, 90 miles south, and even beyond — having heard about Rodney Scott and the old-fashioned whole hog BBQ they were cooking in Hemingway. Before they knew it, even the New York Times was praising Rodney and the magic of Scott’s BBQ.
In 2010 Rodney was invited down to Charleston to cook at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Rodney, accompanied by his infectious personality and delicious food, was an instant hit and by the end of the festival people were already calling him the “Charleston BBQ Guy.” Nobody cared that he had traveled 90 miles for the occasion. More event invitations followed, and Rodney traveled distances as far as Australia and Belize to share his passion for whole hog BBQ.
As Rodney’s notoriety grew around Charleston, so did the requests for him to open a joint a little closer to town. Impressed by the hospitality of everyone he met in Charleston, Rodney fell in love with the town and its charm. Last year, Rodney left the family business to start a new chapter in Charleston and open his own place, Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ.
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