An American Story

The history of grilling at Kingsford is a classic American story. It all started in 1919 when Edward G. Kingsford helped Henry Ford procure a stretch of timberland to supply wood for his auto plants.

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Kingsford® Preserve the Pit

Kingsford remains committed to celebrating Black barbecue culture by launching the second year of Preserve the Pit and doubling the investment in aspiring barbecue professionals.

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American Pride

An American-made company founded over 100 years ago, Kingsford has a lot to be proud of. Our employees have been continuing the family tradition in backyards across the nation.

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Preserve the Pit<sup>®</sup> Preserve the Pit<sup>®</sup>

Kingsford remains committed to celebrating Black barbecue culture by launching the third year of Preserve the Pit fellowship.

The Black community ignited American barbecue more than 350 years ago, but without the spark of a new generation at the pit, important stories, recipes and techniques risk being extinguished. Barbecue goes beyond just food, it’s a culture. It’s been the backdrop to some of the most important moments in Black history and at the center of countless family, friend and civic gatherings.

As a leader in barbecue for more than 100 years, Kingsford is committed to preserving the culture and history of Black barbecue in America and investing in its future. Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit aims to redirect the spotlight on the people and stories that have made barbecue what it is today, while also supporting barbecue entrepreneurs through an immersive fellowship.

The Preserve the Pit Fellowship

For the third year of the fellowship, Kingsford will select six aspiring barbecue professionals as Preserve the Pit fellows for immersive training and one-on-one mentorship with dedicated industry leaders throughout 2023. Participants in the fellowship can expect to:

  • Learn industry skills with hands-on and immersive industry training.

  • Get counsel from a network of advisors and other business resources.

  • Create lasting relationships with key leaders and experts in the industry.

  • Receive a monetary grant to support their existing business.

Those interested are invited to review the eligibility requirements and apply by March 31, 2023, with the chosen class of fellows being announced in April 2023. No purchase is necessary to apply or participate.

Kingsford and its Mentor Network will select the six fellows for 2023 based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, their connection to barbecue, contributions to the legacy of the Black barbecue community and commitments to fueling its future.

Meet The Mentors

Kevin Bludso

Chef/TV Personality/Owner, Bludso’s Bar & Que | Los Angeles, Calif.

Kevin Bludso is a chef and television personality. In 2008, he opened Bludso’s BBQ, his small takeout BBQ stand in Compton, California. It has since grown into an international empire, with locations in Hollywood and Melbourne, Australia. He has made multiple television appearances on top food and cooking shows, most recently as the judge on the hit Netflix BBQ competition show The American BBQ Showdown. His first cookbook, The Bludso Family Cookbook: BBQ Soul Food and Family, From Compton to Corsicana, came out in March 2022 for Ten Speed Press and was named one of New York Times Best Cookbooks of 2022. Kevin was a mentor in Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit 2021 and 2022 programs.

Rashad Jones

Pitmaster/Owner, Big Lee's BBQ food truck | Ocala, Fla.

Rashad Jones began Big Lee’s BBQ as a hobby after being inspired by his wife’s uncle, Leon Archie — “Big Lee” — and his special blend of barbecue and hospitality. Since then, Big Lee's BBQ has earned many awards — including being named Best BBQ & Best Food Truck in the Ocala and Central Florida region — and has been recognized by national publications like Food & Wine (Best BBQ in FL) and Trips to Discover (Best BBQ Joints in FL). He is a featured Food Network chef, with credits including "Guy's Big Project" (2017, Winner) and "Eat Sleep BBQ" (2018, Host). He is currently Food Network's reigning "Master of ’Cue" after winning "BBQ Brawl" Season 3. He has been a mentor in Preserve the Pit 2021 and 2022 programs.

Bryan Furman

Pitmaster/Chef/Owner, Bryan Furman BBQ | Atlanta, Ga.

Bryan Furman is an award-winning pitmaster, opening his new restaurant — Bryan Furman BBQ — this year alongside his current location inside the Atlanta Hawks Arena. This new location has been named one of the most anticipated restaurants by Eater Atlanta & one of the top 10 by the AJC. He is the former pitmaster of the renowned B's Cracklin’ Barbecue, which unfortunately succumbed to a tragic fire in 2019. He continued to showcase his pitmaster skills, including as a Chef in Residence for Stone Barns Center in NY and a pitmaster for Meatopia in the UK. He works alongside the Science and Cooking Department (Harvard University) to teach The Thermodynamics of Barbecue and is known for his award-winning standards such as using Heritage hogs. He was a mentor in Preserve the Pit 2021 and 2022.

Devita Davison

Executive DIrector, FoodLab Detroit |
Detroit, Mich.

Devita Davison is the executive director of FoodLab, a nonprofit organization that fosters the creation of an equitable local food economy by providing food entrepreneurs with education, peer-to-peer mentoring and access to market opportunities. Her overall goal is to create a food economy that acknowledges the importance of food justice, community health, local ownership and sustainability. Devita was a mentor in Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit 2021 and 2022 programs.

Amy Mills

Owner, 17th Street Barbecue |
Murphysboro, Ill.

Amy Mills is the owner of 17th Street Barbecue and she's the industry's go-to girl for all things barbecue. In addition to running the restaurant, she also owns The Factory at 17th Street, a co-packing facility; Faye, a coffee shop/cafe; and OnCue Consulting, the only barbecue business consultancy in the world, offering seminars and training in the culinary techniques behind great barbecue. Amy is a featured judge on various barbecue shows and her family’s second book, Praise the Lard, was published in May 2017.  Amy was a mentor in Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit 2021 and 2022 programs.

Dr. Howard Conyers

Program Expert and Barbecue Historian |
New Orleans, La.

Dr. Howard Conyers is a guardian, pitmaster and educator on the history of Southern barbecue, as well as a rocket scientist. He hosts whole hog barbecue events, The Roots of BBQ initiatives, whether Academy or BBQ Invitational, to address diversity, equity, inclusion, agriculture, history and race using barbecue as the lens. His work has been featured in various media outlets, podcasts, TV shows and he currently has a book underway and is recording oral history that focuses on the significant role of African Americans in barbecue. He has also created the Black BBQ hall of fame and has been a part of Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit program since its inception.

Pat Neely

Chef & Owner, Neely’s BBQ | Atlanta, Ga.

Pat Neely jumped into the barbecue world at age 13, when he started working at his uncle’s business. By 23, he opened his first restaurant, Neely’s BBQ, which eventually grew to 5 locations, and was named the Best BBQ in Memphis. He was named Restaurateur of the Year, later becoming one of America’s favorite celebrity chefs with Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys for 13 seasons, and one season of Road Tasted with the Neelys. He is a respected cookbook author with numerous New York Times best-sellers including Down Home with the Neelys. Pat was a mentor in the Preserve the Pit 2022 program.

Rasheed Philips

Owner, Philips Barbeque Co. | Atlanta, Ga.

Rasheed Philips made his culinary debut and became a breakout star on Netflix’s American Barbecue Showdown. A newcomer to competition barbecue, his culinary mantra “The basics perfected: Time, Temperature, and Technique” thrust him into the spotlight where he became a fan favorite. He’s cultivated a loyal social media base where his candid approach, humility, and charisma reached an international audience, granting him the opportunity to showcase the open-fire style of cooking he’s known for, stemming from his upbringing on his family's farm in Jamaica. Owner of Philips Barbecue Co., a thriving catering business in Atlanta, Ga., Rasheed has built a team that keeps the business running smoothly, as he travels internationally performing open-fire demonstrations.

Meet the Fellows

Tay Nelson

Owner, Bobby's BBQ | FOUNTAIN INN, S.C.

Tay Nelson is the owner of Bobby's BBQ. He mastered the art of smoking meat through video tutorials and mentorship from esteemed pitmasters. Passionate about Central Texas-style barbecue, Tay and his wife opened Bobby's BBQ in 2018. The menu boasts wood-smoked brisket, pulled pork, ribs, turkey, house-made sausage, and even jackfruit for vegans. Tay's proprietary blend of Bobby's All-Purpose Seasoning perfectly complements the meats and homemade sides and was inspired by his late father and brother, the restaurants namesakes, Bobby Sr. and Jr.

Sabrina and Caleb Henley

Founders, Yearby's Barbecue & Waterice | Dallas, Texas

Founders of Yearby’s Barbecue & Waterice who specialize in Halal BBQ, Sabrina and Caleb introduced their hometown flavors of Philly and New Orleans to the folks in Dallas, becoming a local staple. Sabrina, originally from Philadelphia, preserves the city’s waterice tradition while her husband and partner, Caleb, grills up delicious Texas-inspired barbecue. Together they've combined their knowledge, skills and love of food and barbecue to bring their consumers their interpretation of home.

Nate Figaro

Owner, 8020 Creole BBQ & Rub |
Knightdale, N.C.

Nate is the owner of 8020 Creole BBQ & Rub, where he infuses the flavors of his Creole heritage into his signature line of Creole-inspired barbecue rubs and grilled meats. Nate also teaches online cooking classes and hosts pop up cooking events to share his tips, tricks and unique flavor with the community.

Deah Berry Mitchell

Historian and Food Writer | Dallas, Texas

A fifth-generation Texan, historian and food writer, Deah works diligently to preserve Black cultural heritage and amplify the voices of Black-owned restaurants in her city. Deah contributes to the New York Times and the Fort Worth Report where her weekly column, The Dish with Deah, highlights some of the best barbecue businesses in Dallas and Fort Worth. Deah is currently producing a new series titled, “Soul of a City” that will highlight black owned restaurants across the nation while also completing her Ph.D. in History at the University of North Texas, where she is focusing on Black Texas Foodways Post-Emancipation and Juneteenth celebratory food traditions.

Darren W. Carter

Owner, Carter's BBQ | Cleveland, Ohio

Darren and his wife Theresa M. Carter are co-owners of Carter's BBQ. A barbecue enthusiast at heart, Darren handles all the smoking while attempting to honor and grow in the craft. Theresa, who comes from a long line of comfort food matriarchs, prepares all the side dishes and keeps the business running behind the scenes. Darren is also the founder of The Unknowns Black Pitmasters, a podcast and community, which highlights Black BBQ enthusiasts and pitmasters across America to honor the craft of barbecue past and present.

Ronald Payne

Owner, Payne's BBQ | Memphis, Tenn.

Ron is a third generation pitmaster of the Memphis barbecue institution, Payne’s Bar-B-Q. Since 1972, Payne’s has been serving up their signature chopped pork sandwich and famous mustard sauce that attracts barbecue aficionados from across the world. Today, Ron works the pit alongside his mother, Flora Payne, and sister Candice Payne-Parker as they preserve 36 years of history first ignited by his father, mother and grandmother.


Class of 2022

Joseph and Laura Payne

JP’s Que | Memphis, Tenn.

As the founders of JP’s Que, Joseph and Laura Payne bring their twist to condiments. By combining flavors from their Black and Mexican heritage, their goal is to inspire people to become masters in their kitchens. Joseph grew up watching and learning from his mother in the kitchen. Likewise, Laura applies the knowledge she gained from the generations of Mexican women around her. Together, they've combined their skills and love of food and BBQ to their consumers.

Cameron Brooks

Owner, Brooks BBQ and Chicken |
Fort Wayne, Ind.

Cameron Brooks is a fourth generation BBQ business owner, operating his catering business, Brooks BBQ and Chicken. Established by Brooks’ great-grandmother in 1966, Brooks BBQ and Chicken was the first Black-owned barbecue restaurant in Fort Wayne, Ind. Having operated a food truck, they opened their brick-and-mortar space in the Union Street Market at Electric Works in the fall of 2022.

Rashida Marshall

Owner, Soul-Pit / RaRa’s Home Cooking and Catering | Stone Mountain, Ga.

Rashida is the owner and operator of Soul-Pit aka RaRa’s Home Cooking and Catering, established in 2020. Supported by her husband, who is the grill master, and their four children, Rashida looks forward to providing her Atlanta community with the best home cooking and BBQ each and every day. At Soul-Pit, the family takes pride in their homemade food and cook from the “soul.”

Terrance Nicholson

Owner, Zilla’s Pit BBQ | Brownsville, Tenn.

Terrance Nicholson is a Nashville-raised barbecue pitmaster. He entered his first competition in 2014, won the pork rib contest and hasn’t looked back since. As he continued to compete, people would taste his food and ask where they could purchase it themselves. The seed was then planted to start his own catering business, which turned into a food trailer, Zilla’s Pit BBQ. Terrance is passionate about bringing the traditions of his hometown of Brownsville, TN to the masses.

Donnell Crear

Owner, Sunbelt Packaging Company |
Atlanta, Ga.

Based just outside of Atlanta, Donnell is the owner/operator of Sunbelt Packaging Company, an artisan foods co-packaging company. They specialize in small batch production of sauces, dressings, marinades, dry mixes, and seasonings for other small businesses throughout the Southeast. He holds a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Ohio State University.

Marvin C. Ross

Owner, Peculiar Pig Farm LLC |
Summerville, S.C.

Marvin has been farming since around the age of 10 years old alongside his grandfather, when he first showed a passion for pigs and other farm animals. Currently, he is the owner of Peculiar Pig Farm LLC with clients across the barbecue belt states. Most recently, Marvin was filmed for a Discovery Channel documentary and featured at the 2022 Charleston Food & Wine Festival. Marvin is married, resides in Summerville, SC and has 3 children.

Class of 2021


Carson, Calif.

As the head chef and owner of My Father’s Barbeque, Shalamar brings southern hospitality to California by using delicious barbecue as a way to bring people together. As a result of the mentorship, she hopes to improve her management skills to further her business’ success and continue to teach her employees and community about the history of barbecue.


Grand Rapids, Mich.

Owners of Daddy Pete’s BBQ since 2012, Cory and Tarra Davis have a passion for barbecue that they share with their friends, family and community. Through the fellowship, their goal is to build a stronger foundation for their business operations to ensure their restaurant continues to successfully operate beyond their generation.


Kenansville, N.C.

Ronald and his family own Master Blend Family Farms, LLC, which provides whole hogs and premium pork products to restaurants and private owned businesses in his community. They’ve hosted farm tours in collaboration with several local schools and hope to transition one of the farms, which has been in the family for over a century, into a farm school and develop a whole hog barbecue station to share their heritage of barbecue and create a path of opportunity for future generations.


  • As a barbecue leader for more than 100 years, Kingsford is committed to preserving the trailblazing culture and history of Black barbecue in America and investing in its future. Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit aims to celebrate and shine a light on the people and stories that have made barbecue what it is today, while also supporting barbecue entrepreneurs through an immersive fellowship.

  • Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit Fellowship will give a group of aspiring barbecue professionals interested in preserving the tradition of Black barbecue culture an exclusive opportunity for immersive training and one-on-one mentorship with dedicated industry leaders throughout 2023. Participants in the fellowship can also expect to:

    • • Learn necessary skills with hands-on and immersive industry training.
    • • Help from a network of advisors and other business resources.
    • • Create lasting relationships with key leaders and experts in the industry.
    • • Receive capital investment to kick-start their business.

  • To apply, you must be at least eighteen (18) years of age and a resident of the United States. If selected, you must:

    • • Be willing to participate in the program on an ongoing basis from May through August 2023. Time commitment is approximately 10–15 hours per month.
    • • Have an established business.
    • • Available to travel for an in-person immersion session from May 17–20, 2023.
    • • Available to travel for an in-person session with mentor.

    For more information visit Terms & Conditions.

  • Not necessarily. At Kingsford, we know that barbecue is about more than just cooking the food. We are looking for applications who are inspired by any aspect of barbecue from growing and raising ingredients to stoking the pit and committed to contributing to the legacy of the Black barbecue community, and this year, we are specifically looking at six entry categories: Farming/Agriculture, Catering, Restaurant, Producer/Packaging, Butchery and Content Creator. Each of our mentors have diverse backgrounds and experience that lends to having a pool of fellows with differing aspirations.

  • Those interested in the fellowship are invited to review the eligibility requirements and apply now through March 31, 2023. No purchase is necessary to apply or participate. Additionally, applicants must submit a video (1–3 minutes in length) through the website that explains why they should be considered for the fellowship and addresses one or more of the questions in the online application. Video submission must be consistent with the Submission Guidelines noted in the Application Terms.

  • After the conclusion of the submission period on March 31, 2023, submissions will be reviewed by Kingsford and the Preserve the Pit Mentor Network based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, interest in the program, connection to barbecue, contributions to the legacy of the Black barbecue community and commitments to fueling its future. Kingsford and/or the Preserve the Pit Mentor Network may schedule interviews with applicants as needed to assist with the review process. Awarded participants will be notified by phone or email on or before April 24, 2023 and will be publicly announced in April 2023.

  • The fellowship will begin in May 2023 and conclude in August 2023. During this time, each participant will have the opportunity to learn skills from designated mentors and receive assistance in creating a business plan via virtual or phone meetings with mentors at least once a month. An in-person immersion session will be hosted in May, with travel and accommodation provided by Kingsford. Participants must be available to travel between May 17–20 for the immersion session. Outside of these requirements, the time commitment is at the discretion of the participant. However, to get the most out of the program, we recommend devoting as much time as your schedule allows.

  • Kingsford thoughtfully selected the seven mentors with deep and diverse experience in the barbecue industry to make up the Mentor Network. All the individuals in this group are committed to the mission of Preserve the Pit, as well as the time investment needed for a successful mentor relationship. If you are interested in becoming a Mentor in the future, please reach out to

  • For selected fellows, Kingsford will award grants at the end of the program in August 2023.

  • We are pleased to be bring back Preserve the Pit for a third year and hope to continue expanding and enhancing it on an annual basis.

  • The program is sponsored by Kingsford Products Company, LLC, a subsidiary of The Clorox Company.

  • We look forward to speaking with you. Please send a note to for more information.

  • Please reach out to or visit our Media Kit for more information.

Media Kit

If you are a member of the press looking for more information, please check out the materials below or reach out to

Questions? Contact us at

Terms & Conditions