A pair of Grand Rapidians are in the Kingsford charcoal brand’s inaugural class of barbecue professionals who will receive assistance to accelerate their business.
Cory and Tarra Davis, co-owners of Daddy Pete’s BBQ, on Monday were unveiled as members of Kingsford’s inaugural class of Preserve the Pit fellows, an initiative created to continue and nurture the barbecue traditions ignited by the Black community.
The group of barbecue professionals will receive a grant, along with immersive training and one-on-one mentorship with industry leaders throughout 2021 to turn their business aspirations into a reality.
Kingsford launched Preserve the Pit on Jan. 25 and received nearly 1,000 applications. Kingsford and its Mentor Network — made up of industry leaders Kevin Bludso, Dr. Howard Conyers, Devita Davison, Bryan Furman, Rashad Jones and Amy Mills — selected the 2021 class of fellows based on a variety of factors including their connection to barbecue, contributions to the legacy of the Black barbecue community and commitments to fueling its future.
“We are blown away by the interest in Preserve the Pit and the passion that was conveyed by applicants for strengthening the Black barbecue community,” said Shaunte Mears-Watkins, vice president of strategy and marketing for Kingsford. “The selected fellows are motivated to begin their experience as a Preserve the Pit fellow, and we’re happy to be able to support them throughout their journey.”
The inaugural class of the Preserve the Pit Fellowship
Cory and Tarra Davis, Grand Rapids — Owners of Daddy Pete’s BBQ since 2012, the Davises have a passion for barbecue that they share with their friends, family and community. Through the fellowship, their goal is to build a stronger foundation for their business operations to ensure their restaurant continues to successfully operate beyond their generation.
Chef Shalamar Lane, Carson, California: As the head chef and owner of My Father’s Barbeque, Shalamar brings Southern hospitality to California by using delicious barbecue as a way to bring people together. As a result of the mentorship, she hopes to improve her management skills to further her business’ success and continue to teach her employees and community about the history of barbecue.
Ronald Simmons, Kenansville, North Carolina: Ronald and his family own Master Blend Family Farms LLC, which provides whole hogs and premium pork products to restaurants and privately owned businesses in his community. They’ve hosted farm tours in collaboration with several local schools and hope to transition one of the farms, which has been in the family for over a century, into a farm school and develop a whole hog barbecue station to share their heritage of barbecue and create a path of opportunity for future generations.
Due to the high volume of Preserve the Pit applicants, Kingsford expanded the program and selected 10 additional recipients to each receive a $7,500 grant. This grant can be used at the applicants’ discretion to continue preserving the culture and history of Black barbecue in America and fueling its future. These recipients are:
- Melissa Cottingham — Melnificent Wingz (Los Angeles)
- Aaron Gonerway — Plates By the Pound BBQ (Denver)
- Pamela Henry — Pam’s Magic Cauldron (Smyrna, Georgia)
- Daniel Hammond — Smoky Soul Barbecue Chicago (Chicago)
- Brandon Norman — Memphis Original BBQ (Atoka, Tennessee)
- Demetris R. — Making The CuTX (Newport, Vermont)
- Erica Roby — Blue Smoke Blaire (Dayton, Ohio)
- Christopher Simmons — The Qulinary Oasis BBQ (DeSoto, Texas)
- Gerald Vinnett — Big Papi’s Smokehouse (Destrehan, Louisiana)
- Eddie Wright — Eddie Wright BBQ (Jackson, Mississippi)