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SUBJECT: Ricky Parker
DATE: March 22, 2003
INTERVIEWER: April Grayson
April Grayson: Could you state your name and the name of your business?
Ricky Parker: Ricky Lynn Parker, and the name of the business is B.E. Scott’s Barbeque.
Ok. And could you tell me when and where you were born, please?
Born in Memphis and moved to Lexington in ’71.
And how did you get started in the barbeque business and how did you learn, learn how to barbeque.
Mr. Scott and Mrs. Scott—which they don’t have, they never had any kids or anything—me and him become an acquaintance when I was about 14 years old. And they pretty much just took me under their wing. Tried to adopt me (laughs). And I just started working for him in ’76, and I been there ever since.
So, Mr. Scott taught you how to barbeque?
And at what point did you take over the business from him?
So you were sort of a surrogate son in a way?
Has the business always been at this location, here on 412?
Do you know how long ago the business started when it was Mr. Scott’s business?
The business was established in 1960.
Ok, wow! So over 40 years of business in the same location.
Yes. Yes, ma’am.
Wow, that’s great. Have you changed anything about, in the recipes or in the way that you cook or serve barbeque since Mr. Scott?
And could you tell me what kind—is it whole hog barbeque?
Yes, ma’am. We cook nothing but whole hogs.
Just on request, like on a catering job or something like that, if they request ribs or chicken or, you know—it’s got to be on request, though.
Ok. And do you have a particular specialty at your restaurant?
I don’t understand.
Is it the pulled-pork sandwich or something?
Yeah, we pull it or chop it. I’m gonna say the reason the business is established and as good a name as we’ve got, your normal barbeque places, they may cook shoulders, where we cook the whole hog. So if somebody comes in there and they want a pound of tenderloin, or they want a pound of ham or a pound of middling or shoulder, see we can do it. We’ve got it all.
Ok, and what’s your style of cooking?
With the hickory wood.
On the open pit?
On the open pit.
Ok. And where do you get your wood from?
It comes from Savannah, Tennessee, from …[a] hickory handle mill.
Ok. How long does it take for you to cook? How long do you cook your hog?
Anywhere from 20 to 23 hours.
And about how big is the hog when it starts?
It’ll range anywhere from 285 to 250.
Tell me about your sauce. Do you make your own sauce?
Yes, ma’am, we do.
No, ma’am, it’s a vinegar-based.
Vinegar? Ok. And do you make hot, mild?
Yes. I’ve got a mild, medium, and a hot sauce that I make.
Do most people eat it with the sauce?
Yes, yes. It’s hard for, it’s hard for me to keep enough of it made up. We sell it to people by the gallon, by the little squeegee bottle. I mean, we’ll go through, probably on the average of 50 gallons of sauce a week.
That’s great. And what about slaw? Do you serve slaw on your sandwiches?
Yes, yes we do. We got the mayonnaise slaw or we got a vinegar-based slaw, which, we make that ourselves. Everything, everything in this, in my business is made, we make.
Do y’all serve beans and potato salad?
What kind of desserts do you have?
We do a banana pudding. And we also got fried pies—peach, apple, and chocolate. And I also do peach cobblers.
Ok. Do you see yourself fitting into a tradition of barbeque in this area, or can you talk about that at all?
I don’t understand.
There’s a lot of whole hog barbeque in certain parts of Tennessee, whereas, mostly, in Memphis they serve shoulders and things like that. Do you, do you think Mr. Scott fit into that tradition, or did he just start it sort of on his own?
He, he started on his own.
Do you know where he learned his?
No, ma’am, I do not.
Is there anything in particular that you think makes your barbeque distinctive?
Yeah, because, see, in this area—well, I’m gonna say in Henderson County itself, they’s people either cook with gas, or they’ll cook in a barrel, and of course, there’s nobody that cooks on the open pit. And nobody around here cooks a whole hog. I mean, I’m basically the only one that’s still in the old tradition way. And if I had to go to a gas or anything like that, I’d quit. I mean, my work—I’m not just saying this—I put in 120 hours a week, is what I do. I start on Monday, and I do not quit ‘til Saturday night. Which it ain’t much on my married life. Actually, I just went through a divorce on account of that very reason.
It’s a hard life.
Yes, it is, very hard. It is. But now, see, I’m a single parent. I’ve got my kids, I’m raising kids and sending them to school, and I’m working, too. And it’s tough.
Are we almost at the location where you’re making the delivery?
Can you tell me something about the delivery? How many—you’re having an exceptional weekend for deliveries?
Yeah, normally, on an average week, I’ll have at least two caterings. And this particular day, I’ve had, I’ve had two wedding receptions last night, and both of ‘em was at 6:00.
And how many people?
There was 75 on one, and then they was like 60 on the other one. Then I, of course, I had three catering jobs I’m doing today. One of ‘em was for Bumpus Harley-Davidson in Jackson. Another one was for open house at Husky Small Engines, right outside of Parsons. And of course I got the turkey federation, Wildlife Turkey Federation, tonight, which it’s gonna—each one of them is averaging anywhere from 300, 250 to 300 people.
So today you’re catering for about 750 people?
Wow. And did that, do you have to start several days ahead of time?
Well, actually started, I started yesterday morning at 6:00, and I have not been to bed yet.
Oh, my! Well, I appreciate you letting me ride with you for this! Now what group is this that we’re going to the national guard armory?
This is where they’re gonna hold the turkey federation.
Ok. We’re pausing right now while Ricky makes a delivery to the national guard armory.
Ok, so, you were telling me that you work real hard. Can you describe a typical day for me?
Be more specific, please.
When you get up in the morning, what time do you get to work, and what are y’all’s hours? How many people do you serve? What time do you leave, leave the restaurant?
Well, me and my sons get up at, uh, basically 5:30 starts my day off. And I get them ready for school, get them fed, and then I go down to the barbeque place, and I’ll work for about an hour until school gets ready to start. And I carry them to school, and I come back.
Eleven and thirteen and five.
Wow, three boys?
No, two boys and a little girl.
Basically, it’s just like from 9—our actual hours are from 9 to 8, from Tuesday through Saturday. Unless like happened today, we sold out early.
Then basically at 3:00, I gotta pick up my kids at school. And I carry them to my house. They’re old enough, you know, my oldest son’s old enough to watch the other two.
And then I’ll go back and work, and I’ll get home basically anywhere from 10 to 1:00 in the morning.
So what do you do after hours, after y’all close? Are you preparing the hogs?
Yeah. See, there you go again talking—that’s where it falls back that I cook anywhere from 20 to 23 hours a hog. And, see like last night, for instance, I had to leave the house at 2:00 this morning, and I had to go back down there, and I had to fire the meat again. Well, after you fire that meat, you can’t just actually walk off and leave it because grease fire is, that’s something that I’ve got to be real careful with, or anybody else should be real careful with. ‘Cause when you put live coals up under them hogs, and you got grease dripping on them live coals, it has a tendency to flame up. And you gotta make sure that ain’t gonna happen before you leave.
And how much help do you have at the restaurant?
Basically, I’ve got three, I got me and one other lady, which she’s full time, and Mr. Carvill, the black man you seen. He helps me part time—which he’s retired. And when I got catering jobs like this, I got people that I hire out more or less to help me serve, stuff like that.
Do you have to come back to the armory and serve tonight?
So when, what time do you think you’re gonna get in bed?
(Laughs) I can’t answer that. I have no idea.
So you’re pushing 48 hours up and running today.
Wow. How do you see the future of your business? Would you like to turn it over to your boys someday, or is that just too far to think about?
No, I would let them make that choice. I look at it like, if they wanted to get, be interested in it, I’d show ‘em the ropes, I would help ‘em with it. But, in my own eyes, no, I would not like for them to do that. For one reason—the hours that’s involved in it. I don’t, I’ve hadn’t growed up in it, with Mr. and Mrs. Scott and actually been there as long as I have—see when I was going to high school and I was working there, I was working 80 hours a week going to high school.
And if I hadn’t done that, I never would’ve bought it from Mr. and Mrs. Scott. But it’s just something that I’ve growed in to. See, I average sleeping three hours a night, is what I average.
And then on Sunday, that’s where I try to make up my sleeping time.
So it’s pretty much your whole life, your business.
I am married to that business, this business.
Now would you consider quitting?
Um, no. No. I enjoy it too much. I enjoy the work. I enjoy the push, the push—how can you say that? Uh, I like to be pressured.
(Laughs) Sounds like a lot of pressure!
It seems like the more that I do, and I’ll quote on this, it ain’t got to do with the money. Everybody that works for me, they can tell you it ain’t the money that drives me doing this. I just want to see if I can achieve and get the best quality out there that I possibly can. And it seems like the more that I do, the more pressure that’s put on me, it seems like the better job that I can do. And I try—and not mean this in a bad way—I want to take that extra step where nobody else does. I really do. Now, if I’d put forth this much effort in my marriage, I would not be divorced right now. (Laughs)
Yeah. Well, tell me about your clientele. Do you have a good—are your customers important in terms of your making relationships with them, or just serving them?
Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Seventy-five percent of my clientele that comes in there, they are just like a person on a Friday afternoon going into a bar, and he sits at the counter, and the bartender knows what he wants to drink. That’s the way it is at my business. When I see them get out of a car, 75 percent of my people, I know what they want before they get in my business.
Do you get many people through here that have never tried it before?
Yes, ma’am. Yeah, we ship a lot of meat.
To what kind of places?
Oh, honestly, I’ve shipped it as far as Switzerland.
Wow. Was that for somebody who was from here and wanted it, or somebody that passed through?
Actually, it was one of the main ramrods, one of the main bosses, of one of the companies here in town. Volvo Penta. Actually their main plant is in Switzerland, I believe. Anyway, well, he come down here, and anytime any of these businesses around here, these plants, if they’ve got somebody coming in, flying in, they will call me and they’ll say, “Rick, you need to take care of some of our customers, or our bosses are coming in, we need you to feed like 20 people.” So I did that, and this guy, we fed that bunch, and the next thing I know, I get a phone call, and they want me to ship meat to Switzerland.
That’s great. That’s a compliment.
Yes, yes. I mean, that makes you feel good. That’s what I was saying. It’s not all about the money. It’s that part of it. I mean, of course that pays the bills. It makes you feel good that you do a good enough job that you, that does.
I had, we got a plant here…. Well, their main office was in St. Louis. Well, I had the main office in St. Louis call me, and they said they was gonna have a plane here in an hour and a half, and they wanted me to make them 20 jumbo sandwiches, 20 servings of beans, and 20 fried pies, and to be at the airport in an hour. And I mean I carried it there and they flew right back.
Wow. That’s amazing. So do you think you’re the preferred caterer in town, then, or are there other businesses that do a lot of catering events, too?
They’s, they’s, yeah, the reason, I think the reason that I get orders like this, which I been doing the turkey federation, I’ve done the Ducks Unlimited, I do like the co-op. I do all of them. It’s a yearly thing. And then Woodmen of the World—the insurance—Woodmen of the World, they have an annual (sic) dinner once a month, and there’s no question, they’re just “Rick, just don’t worry about it, you do it, this is the date we want it on every month, we expect you to be there, we don’t have to say nothing else.”
That’s great. Well, one more question and then I’ll let you get back to the rest of the catering. Do you ever do barbeque contests or festivals?
No. No, I do not. I been asked, I been asked many a time, but no, I do not.
That seems to be the case with most of the people we’ve asked, talked to, are just not interested.
Well, it ain’t so much as interested. It’s not like I’m not interested in doing it, but I don’t know.
You don’t have the time and all that.
Yeah. My kids is my life besides this, and it’s just all I can do to do all that.
Well, do you have any last philosophy of barbeque that you want to share?
Ok. Well, I appreciate you talking to me. It’s great. Thanks for letting me ride with you.
Pleasure. I didn’t know how you would take that.
Oh, no, that’s fine. Thank you very much.