Photo by Staff photographer Corey Lowenstein
Garner, 64, is the author of two North Carolina barbecue books: "North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time" and "Bob Garner's Guide to North Carolina Barbeque." A longtime fan of the state's barbecue traditions, Garner became known for his 'cue know-how based on his work on UNC-TV's North Carolina Weekend show. Garner would travel the state, filming segments about restaurants and eventually produced an hour-long show about the state's favorite food tradition.
"He is kind of the spokesperson of North Carolina barbecue," says Greg Hatem, a downtown developer and owner of the Empire Eats restaurant group. "..That's such an important mission of what The Pit is supposed to be."
Hatem opened The Pit five years ago with famous eastern North Carolina pitmaster Ed Mitchell. But Hatem and Mitchell parted ways earlier this year. (To see my earlier blog post about Ed Mitchell leaving The Pit, go HERE. No word yet on Mitchell's new venture.)
Hatem plans to open a second location of The Pit in Durham although the exact location is unknown at the moment. He denied reports that the restaurant will be located at 309 E. Chapel Hill St. Hatem owns that building and placed a sign teasing the Pit coming to Durham but says that's not the restaurant's future location.
Garner's job for Empire Eats will be broad. Garner says he and Hatem have joked about what his title should be: "barbecue-ologist" or "curator of the traditional food committment." Both say Garner will consult on the menu, help source food, help train the staff, write cookbooks and continue to lead a series of barbecue heritage dinners at The Pit. Plus, Garner will produce a series of videos about the heritage dinners and the group's restaurants. (To see one of Garner's videos of a recent heritage dinner, go HERE.)
Garner says he will continue to work parttime for UNC-TV, producing food and restaurant segments for North Carolina Weekend. Plus, he says, he is writing a new book that combines and updates the material in her previous two books. It will be called "Bob Garner's Book of Barbecue" and will be published this spring, Garner says.
(Note: I had a story last year about Garner having gastric-bypass surgery and continuing his life as a food expert and eater. Go HERE to read the story.)