Application period open in Kingsford’s “Preserve the Pit” program for Black barbecue professionals

Ptp Mentors And Fellows

Preserve the Pit Mentors and Fellows from a past cohort. // Courtesy photo Kingsford

For the third year in a row, applications for Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit Fellowship, which pairs Black barbecue entrepreneurs with industry professionals for one-on-one training and capital investment, are now open until March 31, according to a press release.

The program’s first two years helped spark awareness and provided investment in the future of Black barbecue. However, support and training for Black barbecue entrepreneurs is still needed, says Kingsford in a press release.

Six entrepreneurs from across the industry, including pitmasters, farmers, packagers, and more will be selected for the Fellowship and receive immersive training and one-on-one mentorship with dedicated industry leaders throughout 2023.

The Mentor Network comprises leaders and experts in the industry who Kingsford has welcomed back to help guide and support the development of our Fellows. The mentors include barbecue industry superstars from across the country: Kevin BludsoBryan FurmanRashad JonesAmy MillsPat NeelyDevita DavisonDr. Howard Conyers, and, for the first time this year, Rasheed Philips.

Fellows learn industry skills with hands-on and immersive training, get counsel from a network of advisors and other business resources, and create lasting relationships with key leaders and experts in the industry. Fellows also receive a $12,000 capital investment to kick-start their business.

All Fellows will also have the chance to come together with their cohort and mentors at this year’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis, Tennessee, with all expenses for the trip paid.

Applications are due March 31, 2023, and fellows will be announced in April 2023. The full application can be completed online.

No purchase is necessary to apply or participate. Kingsford and its mentor network will select the 2023 class of Fellows 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.

Current Food Network BBQ Brawl “Master of ‘Cue,” host of Eat, Sleep, BBQ on Discovery+, owner of Big Lee’s BBQ, and three-year Preserve the Pit mentor Rashad Jones had a conversation about the mentorship program with The Pitch.

“The most rewarding is seeing the mentees benefit from this experience,” says Jones. “I feel like it’s helping their businesses become more sustainable.”

“Preserve the Pit is all about celebrating the legacy and history of Black barbecue,” Jones continues. “Business can be very daunting. There’s a lot of folks who go into business in the food world, and the overwhelming majority fail. And those numbers are even higher for Black and brown communities for several reasons: Access to capital, finding the right mentors, just a whole swathe of reasons.”

“But the beautiful thing about Preserve the Pit is it’s bringing industry experts, people with experience, people who have been doing this for a long time, people who are part of other networks that they’re able to leverage the benefit of those things back into a mentor and mentee relationship,” says Jones. “And your regular average pitmaster from Anytown, USA, they would have a very, very hard time recreating that on their own.”

Jones calls the network of mentors that Preserve the Pit connects their mentees with “the barbecue version of the Avengers.” The opportunity to work with such well-established entrepreneurs in the barbecue industry is vital to young businesspeople.

Jones feels that personally his own business has benefitted from his involvement as a mentor with Preserve the Pit. He appreciates how the program has pushed him to stretch himself and give more to others. He’s also working on adding a brick-and-mortar restaurant to his five-unit mobile food business and writing his first book.

“Let’s talk barbecue language and barbecue terms,” says Jones. “If I can be that spark that ignites something positive and hopeful and ambitious inside of the heart and mind of whoever my mentee is going to be, that’s exciting. That’s big for me. Because who knows where that sort of thing can lead to. Sparks can turn into flames, and flames can ignite infernos, and that’s what I’m hoping to do this year.”

Jones encourages professionals in the barbecue industry to apply for the mentorship program regardless of their own perception of their experience level or aptitude.

“We don’t want anyone to be shy,” says Jones. “Sometimes people will see something and say, ‘Well, I never get selected for stuff like that, you know, I’ve tried other things before. And I’ll just keep grinding away on my own.’ Maybe now is your time. So go check out the application and read up on it. I wish every single applicant the best of luck.”

Categories: Food & Drink