The 'Iconic' Pitmaster, Ed Mitchell - Master of Pit-Cooked Whole-Hog BBQ
The Ed Mitchell Story
Legendary The Pitmaster, Ed Mitchell is a native of Wilson, North Carolina ‘known as the home of BBQ’. His passion began in early childhood during a time of celebration whether a special occasion, holiday, or end of the tobacco season. Traditional pig-picking then was as natural as ‘apple pie’ or the ‘American dream’.
A grandson of small farmers, Ed learned at an early age how to prepare a 150 year old method for cooking whole hog barbecue. Although his education, work-life, and military experiences took him temporarily away from family traditions, they came back very quickly upon returning to Wilson and the family business.
As the business grew (driven by barbecue sales), so did Ed’s reputation. Acknowledgement of his talents led to associations with remarkable and very influential writers, historians, and researchers. Early in 2002, John T. Edge, Director of the ‘Southern Foodways Alliance’ an institute of the ‘Center for the Study of Southern Culture’ at the University of Mississippi, conducted research to identify the most authentic barbecue in the region. This led to Mitchell being named the #1 Pitmaster in North Carolina. Ed’s connection with new friend, Peter Kamisky, author of the book Pig Perfect, the quest for the holy grail of pork. Kaminsky ‘celebrated family farmers who give their pigs freedom in the field, offer them natural foods and produced a more flavored pork’. This inspired Ed’s interest in learning more about the contribution of African Americans to the cooking methods of barbecue.
These relationships led to partnering with NC A&T University farm raised pig program. This in combination with a 100 year old family cooking method gave rise to a platform for branding ‘The Pitmaster’ as a master of traditional barbecue. During this time Ed became a founding pitmaster of the Big Apple Block Party going into its 11th year June 2013, and hosted a Fire Masterclass at the 20th Annual International Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, Australia this past March 2012.
Ed’s commitment to authentic whole hog barbecue using farm raised animals made him unique within the foodie and healthy movement communities. Another important ally is Dorothy Hamilton, ‘a passionate entrepreneur, award-winning educator, and gastronomic visionary’. Her ‘relentless pursuit of culinary excellence across the globe has inspired creation of the International Culinary Center in New York City, where her French and Italian culinary schools reside. She has been involved with launching the careers of ‘many American prominent’ chefs. As past chair she had invited ‘The Pitmaster’ to be a guest Chef at the James Beard House, a prestigious organization dedicated to ‘celebrating, nurturing, and preserving America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.
Ed’s network of passionate culinary experts who are in the forefront of the ‘healthy food movement’, a foodie following, supported his upscale restaurant concept based on authentic barbecue continues acknowledging him through articles and media. Ed met icon Michael Pollan, a well known disciple of the cause for healthy eating. In May of 2010, Pollan traveled to Wilson to have dinner at home with Ed and his mother. This meeting provided validation of ‘The Pitmaster’s prominence in the ‘farm to table’ movement. The vision for small farmers becoming more economically viable using farm raised animals along with the application of traditional cooking methods, in an upscale environment, put ‘The Pitmaster’ on record in the top 50 best new restaurants in 2009.
‘As barbecue undergoes a renaissance’ The Pitmaster, Ed Mitchell intends on being a recognizable ‘brand’ bringing his passion, awareness, and commitment to authentic cooking methods with quality farmed raised animals and produce.