Labor Day Feature: Life in the Pits with Brandon Cook

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off for Pork We Go
A few weeks ago the Rib Rabbi and I headed west down Interstate 85 to Lexington, where we rendezvoused with a Winston-Salem Journal reporter for dinner and an interview.  I’d been to Cook’s BBQ a couple of times before, loved their food, and figured it would be the perfect off-the-beaten path location to meet.  If the reporter found her way to this hidden gem of a restaurant several miles south of Lexington, then I figured she could be trusted to report faithfully on the divine swine.  Well, the reporter got lost somewhere on the way to Cook’s BBQ and showed up a little bit late for dinner (she did show up and did apologize so she passed my test).  Lucky for the Rib Rabbi and me, while we waited on our dinner date to arrive pitmaster Brandon Cook  gave us a thorough tour of the operation. 

Zen and the Art of Barbecue
I’d wanted to talk to Brandon ever since reading an interview with him in Holy Smoke, in which he described the way-out-of-the-way location of Cook’s BBQ as follows: “Our location is a very nice spot.  Nobody drops in accidentally; if you’re coming here, this is your destination.”  The quote’s half-Zen, half-mad scientist logic struck a chord with me.  I knew I’d like anybody who thought his restaurant’s location was perfect because nobody could find the place without knowing it was there.  And maybe Brandon was right about the location, as Cook’s BBQ was doing brisk business when we were there.  In fact, it had undergone a major expansion since the last time I’d visited a couple years back.  But it still serves delicious traditional NC barbecue, as well as not-so-traditional-for-NC Texas-style beef brisket.

Beef in Lexington?! It's okay, remain calm...

Beef brisket in Lexington?! It's okay, try to remain calm...

Cook’s Cook Can Cook
Brandon Cook is a fairly young man, but he works the pit like he’s been doing it for many decades.  Brandon grew up in the restaurant business–his dad, Doug, used to own Cook’s BBQ and now owns another joint in town–and learned to work a pit at an early age.  He has been cooking ever since.  Better yet, while scores of other pitmasters (including, not Continue reading