So much has been written about what makes Rodney Scott’s food special. And it is. Intoxicatingly so. It’s why he won a James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2018. His craft has been studied to perfection throughout the majority of his life, and as much as the award was a surprise to him personally, it was a deserved accolade for decades of tireless dedication.
“You have to use every sense that you have in the pit: listening, smelling, seeing and touching,” he says. “Listening to the fat dripping in the coals. Smelling to see what stage of the cook the hog is in, or the ribs or chicken. Watching how fast the smoke comes out. Seeing is believing, but touching is proof. So I touch—I trust my sense of touch more than I do the temperature on the thermometer.”
His standards are high, even outside the pit. When he discovers that his team have altered the ratios in his sweet tea, he steps in to correct them. He’s adamant that it’s supposed to come off really sweet upfront, because, once the ice melts, it will be just right. Around these parts, that melting doesn’t take very long.
His methods for cooking whole hog are both intuitive and imperfect. It’s inherent to cooking with wood, and it’s part of the appeal; every pig comes off a little bit different. If you want the finer details, and even learn how to do it yourself, step by step, it’s all in the book. He’ll tell you what makes good wood, and a sound pit, even give you the recipes for his sauces. That takes a lot of confidence.