Apr 8, 2024 - News

Nashville's Pat Martin highlights "old ways" of BBQ on TV show "Life of Fire"

Pat Martin prepares barbecue.

Pat Martin in his new television show "Life of Fire." Photo: Courtesy of the Outdoor Channel

You can hear the disdain in Pat Martin's voice when he mentions the trendy elements that pop up frequently on modern TV shows about barbecue.

  • Stainless steel cookers. Electric-assisted smokers. Competitions.

Why it matters: You won't find any of those on Martin's new television show "Life of Fire," which debuts May 6 on the Outdoor Channel.

  • Instead of chasing trends, Martin, who founded Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint, focuses on what he calls "the old ways of barbecue."

What he's saying: "If you have any interest in the romanticism of the stories we've all heard — uncles and dads sitting around a fire cooking a hog, and they're telling who they are to their sons and nephews — there's a lot of work that goes into it," Martin tells Axios. "The barbecue is the vehicle to tell the story."

What to expect: On "Life of Fire," Martin takes viewers on a journey through different styles of live fire cooking. The pilot focuses on Martin's backstory and shines a spotlight on the West Tennessee whole-hog tradition. West Tennessee barbecue standard-bearers Daryl Ramey and Zach Parker are featured in the episode alongside Martin.

  • Another episode finds Martin learning about the Santa Maria-style barbecue during a trip to California, which he says blew his mind.
  • Nashville foodies will be interested to know that local Bill Darsinos from Grecko's and SweetMilk plays a prominent role in an episode as well.

Yes, but: Martin didn't want the show to be "white guys cooking barbecue." During a trip to Georgia, he visits acclaimed pitmaster Bryan Furman and discusses issues of racism and slavery.

  • In an episode based in Minnesota, Martin explores the Hmong community's culture and approach to live fire cooking.
  • "I'm not trying to make anybody feel uncomfortable, but I speak the truth to some things."

Flashback: Since he opened Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in 2006, Martin has built a barbecue empire.

  • There are six Nashville-area locations and restaurants in Kentucky, South Carolina and Alabama. He published his BBQ cookbook two years ago.

The bottom line: Martin says he's always been interested in old ways of doing things. He mentions, for example, how his family would build charcoal chimneys to grill out or how his grandfather sharpened his straight razor on a leather strap before shaving.

  • "Some of these things don't need to be changed or sped up or made more efficient," he says.

The intrigue: Martin pushed back when asked to identify the best barbecue he's had.

  • "I'm not a 'best' guy at all. I think that's such a stupid way to look at things, besides maybe Michael Jordan in basketball."
  • "I think competition BBQ around the world over the last 25 years has really brought an attitude that I don't know if it's my favorite thing."

Martin did suggest a few West Tennessee barbecue joints worth checking out.

  • "Whenever I go to Memphis, I go to Payne's," he said. "For West Tennessee whole hog, Ramey's is a must and, of course, B.E. Scott's."
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