Aug 2, 2022 - Food and Drink

Discussing barbecue with Pat Martin

chef pat Martin in a white shirt and white hat turned backward, handing over a plate of food to a guest
Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SOBEWFF

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint pitmaster Pat Martin appeared on The Splendid Table radio show and podcast last week, where he spoke about the vanishing art of West Tennessee-style whole hog barbecue.

Why it matters: Martin said rising costs have driven many mom-and-pop barbecue shops out of business.

  • He said his restaurant was one of three left in the state that use the West Tennessee method to prepare their meat, a painstaking process that can take 24 hours.

What he's saying: "The economics of barbecue is broken," Martin said, noting that aspiring pitmasters in small towns can now make an easier and more profitable living leaving barbecue behind.

Between the lines: Customers are often resistant to even slight changes in price, Martin said. The resulting dynamic pushed many small operations out of business or toward methods that cut back on quality.

  • "It's our peasant food, and people expect it to be cheap. They still expect it to be cheap," he said.
  • "We can get away with charging more in cities like Nashville and Atlanta, because it's just more expected," he added. "Outside of the major metropolitan cities, you just can’t get away with it."
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