Famed pitmaster Rodney Scott says that Charleston’s allure unknowingly began for him in elementary school. As a Hemingway, South Carolina, native, he was taught about the Lowcountry city in history class, but Scott recalls he wasn’t really interested. “Years later, when I visited, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m sorry I didn’t pay attention in school’,” he tells Eater.
Scott started visiting the Holy City with more frequency around 2009. At the time, he was a pitmaster in the family whole-hog business, Scott’s Bar-B-Que, in Hemingway. “There was a day that I rolled down to Charleston, and I saw all the people and the expanding food scene, and I decided I wanted to be a part of that.”
As soon as Scott imagined that he wanted to open his own whole-hog shop, Rodney Scott BBQ, in Charleston, he made it happen. Residents were already fans of his pork, as many were familiar with the two-hour drive north for a bite of seductive smoke at Scott’s Bar-B-Que. A new restaurant was almost a guaranteed success, but, of course, there were a few hiccups. “Staffing is very complicated here,” says Scott, “It’s different from Hemingway, where you knew who was coming in to work and how long they could stay — as opposed to here, where people come in to fill in applications every day, but you may have to fire someone you thought was great and hire someone you were skeptical about. Labor was the biggest challenge.”
It has been worth the struggle though. Scott says he loves meeting all the new faces in Charleston. He was instantly part of the culinary community with many congratulations and requests to cater staff parties.
A year after opening, Scott found himself Eater Charleston’s “Chef of the Year.” When asked about how he feels about the accolade, he admits he found it a bit odd, but amazing, “I respect chefs as the people who put in a lot of detailed ingredients, designs, and appearances — where I’m the pit guy who likes to cook it up, make it look decent, and eat it. Chefs are in their kitchens creating art, so to be named Chef of the Year, I was in awe.” Many folks in Charleston might disagree with Scott that his vinegar-tinged, smoked whole hog is a type of art in its own category.
Not everyone can sample the latest tasting menu, but swaths of diners can stop by Rodney Scott BBQ for a sandwich. “When I came in,” says Scott, “I didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, everybody, look it’s me.’ I wanted it to be more like, ‘If you have a chance, please stop by.’ I thought if I could get everybody in the city to visit me at least once, and give their honest opinion, I would really appreciate it. And if they liked it, they would come back, and if they didn’t, then I’d understand.” Perhaps pit barbecue isn’t for everyone, but Rodney Scott BBQ brought a lot of comfort to Charleston in 2017 — plus, there’s always the catfish sandwich or banana pudding for the non-pork people.
Scott thanks everyone who embraced and encouraged him and his team in 2017 and everyone who voted him “Chef of the Year.” He also told Eater a few new additions to look for in 2018, like soft-serve ice cream and his ongoing quest to stock Red Rock soda.
• Scott’s Bar-B-Que Keeps Whole Hog Tradition Alive in Hemingway [ECHS]
• Charleston’s Eater Awards Winners 2017 [ECHS]
• Have You Tried Red Rock Cola? [Serious Eats]