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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Brandon Cook

In 1969, Doug Cook built his barbecue stand by hand, in a cul-de-sac plot down the road from home. There wasn’t much to Cook’s Barbecue at first: a pit/kitchen, a wooden chopping block, and drive-up window. When customers wanted a place to sit and eat their chopped barbecue plates, Doug Cook felled trees from the surrounding oak grove, and built himself a dining room.

Brandon Cook and Cook’s Barbecue were born just one year apart. Friends and family jokingly tell the younger Cook that he was born in his father Doug’s barbecue pits. He remembers crawling in the fireplace as a child, flirting with the waitresses as a teenager, and eventually, under the elder Cook’s tutelage, learning how to tend the pits, shovel-sling the cherry-red hickory coals, and slow smoke the Lexington-style shoulders.

For years, Brandon Cook avoided Cook’s; he viewed the future of barbecue—not just the business but the art form—with skepticism. In 2001, he returned to his family’s restaurant, inheriting the role of pitmaster. Fitting for a man born in a pit.

Date of interview:
2011-11-17 00:00

Rien T. Fertel

Denny Culbert

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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