by Amanda Dove Wells
Grant Hutcheson didn’t necessarily set out to become what we consider a “master smoker,” but when, at the age of 15, he landed a job as a bus boy at The Parker House restaurant, little did he know he was well on his way to barbecue mastery.
At The Parker House, Hutcheson worked his way up from a bus boy to eventual Sous Chef before moving on to a stint at Parlor Market. Then, five years ago, Andy Cook of The Parker House recruited him to help out with his competition barbecue team “Slap Yo’ Mama.” The team competed on the Memphis Barbecue Network smoking whole hogs, shoulders and ribs. “I was hooked,” says Hutcheson of his then newfound love affair with the method of smoking meat.
Hutcheson and Andy had talked of eventually opening a farm to table restaurant, but their minds kept returning to barbecue. “We were eating the country’s top barbecue eight times a year and really, we were just spoiled,” says Hutcheson. “And, there was nothing in Jackson that came close to that.” So the two, along with business partners Chris Clark and Scott Jackson, opened up Fondren’s own barbecue joint, The Pig & Pint.
Here, Hutcheson truly is the master of the smoker. When it comes to the secret of smoking, fact of the matter is that the secret’s not just in the sauce. It’s in the equipment, the wood and your timing. Hutcheson stands watch over a custom built Bacwoods Smoker from Dixie, Louisiana, the same brand he used on the MBN. The meat you’re served at The Pig & Pint is smoked over a blend of pecan and sweet hickory wood. “We like our ribs tender and they’re perfect when you can leave a bite mark,” says Hutcheson, who smokes chicken and ribs for four hours, brisket for eight and Boston butt for 12.
At his side at the smoker are Hunter Ray and Sam Heilman. “When I was training them, I tried to instill that element of competition,” says Hutcheson. “I told them to approach it like there would be a judge coming around.”
“There’s a lot that sets us apart from other barbecue restaurants,” explains Hutcheson. “One being that we bring experience from fine dining establishments. There’s a chef twist on a lot that we do, like the jicama mango coleslaw or the smoked tomato aioli slaw.”
As for Fondren, Hutcheson says it was a no-brainer when it came to choosing a location. “We wanted to be in the middle of businesses, close to downtown and somewhere where events would happen often. We love the people of Fondren and they’ve been so good to us.”
Hutcheson is a multi-time Memphis in May winner and still competes in barbecue competitions all across the southeast. Eat The Pig & Pint at 3139 North State Street, Monday – Saturday.