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A Texas Pitmaster Makes Forbes’s 30 Under 30 List

Of course the first barbecue aficionado to make Forbes 30 Under 30 is from Texas.

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Grant Pinkerton at Pinkerton's in Houston on November 15, 2017.
Photograph by Jody Horton

Barbecue hasn’t been well-represented on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list since it launched in 2011. In fact, Grant Pinkerton, of Houston’s Pinkerton’s Barbecue, was told that he was the first pitmaster they’ve recognized when Forbes called him Wednesday morning to congratulate him on making the 2018 list. An earlier email had gotten lost, so he learned just hours before the list was released that he was in the same company as Houston Astro José Altuve and food entrepreneur Ayesha Curry, who just opened her debut restaurant, International Smoke, in San Francisco this week. Curry will join Pinkerton in the Houston culinary scene when the second location of her global barbecue joint opens in 2018.

The Forbes write-up notes that Pinkerton “still trims every brisket himself,” but I called him to confirm that this important recognition hadn’t changed that. “Yes, I do,” he says emphatically, noting that he had skimped on his duties when he went to New York to cook a barbecue pop-up at Pig Beach in October. It was then that Pinkerton had his final interview with Forbes, which was steadily whittling down thousands of nominees for this year’s list. Asked for his thoughts on making the cut, Pinkerton said he was most proud to represent barbecue. “I thought that was pretty cool,” he says about being the first pitmaster on the list, adding, “I’m glad it was somebody from Texas.”

Pinkerton’s was closed on Tuesday, so there was no big celebration. They were busy cooking for Wednesday’s service, but there’s some fun not far ahead. “I bought a hog at the Stock Show, and it just got delivered yesterday,” Pinkerton says. He and some friends are breaking it down to make a massive amount of charcuterie and cured meats.

Forbes looks for well-rounded applicants, so Pinkerton’s service to first responders and those in need during Hurricane Harvey made an impression on the judges. “We took it as a challenge to keep cooking barbecue during the whole thing,” he says. He had a food delivery come the Thursday before Harvey hit, so he kept his coolers running with generators. He told me when the storm hit, “our walk-in cooler was stuffed with food.” They used it to feed 950 police officers, 50 national guard members, four precinct’s worth of constables, and they even sent food to one of the local jails that was running low on food.

From Forbes‘s description, it seems Pinkerton can afford the generosity. In the first nine months of business, Pinkerton’s Barbecue brought in $2 million worth of revenue. That’s an impressive total for any restaurant, let alone a barbecue joint. So don’t let anyone say smoking meat can’t make you money. Sometimes, it can make you famous too.

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  • WhyMeLord

    Someone once asked me what was my favorite BBQ. The answer is almost any BBQ that I don’t have to cook. I like to cook (especially BBQ) but what I enjoy most is eating other people’s BBQ. (Hint: it’s a lot less work)

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