“I do what I love to do. I love to cook, I love to make folks happy with my food, I love to deepen my knowledge of cooking, I love going in to work. I love working the line.”
–Pat Martin, owner and pit master, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Tell us about your job.
I’m a pit master. I’m at Martin’s almost every day. We’re open seven days a week. We have no freezers, we have no microwaves. We make everything on our menu from scratch every single day! We cook whole hog, brisket, shoulders, chicken, turkey, wings—we do it all.
What led you to your current position?
I grew up in a family of amazing Southern cooks—men and women! When I got to college at a tiny school named Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, I found myself hanging around the old BBQ joints all the time. I loved it and wanted to learn it. But I didn’t set out in life to do this: My dad was a government bond trader and I ended up following in his footsteps, in corporate bond sales. I got married, and she was a songwriter in Nashville. So it was either move back to Nashville or go to New York/London, and I just didn’t want to live up there. Well, we worked our tail off to get back to Nashville—and then she divorced me. We were too young and we knew it. I didn’t want to leave Nashville, so I stayed. Started a landscape construction and grade business and remarried. I liked the money, but the work didn’t interest me. One day one of my guys totaled a bunch of our equipment. That was my excuse to finally do what I had dreamed of. So on a small line of credit and a shit ton of hard work, I opened Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in October 2006. We haven’t looked back since!
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Well, I do what I love to do, first and foremost. I mean, who can actually say that? I love to cook, I love to make folks happy with my food, I love to deepen my knowledge of cooking, I love to meet new people, I love to travel. I love going in to work. I love working the line.
We loved your smoked-overnight ribs, pulled pork, and chicken (above), which we were lucky to eat at an event in Bristol, Virginia. How would you say your food speaks to the culinary landscape of Nashville/Nolensville?
You know, Nashville wasn’t really known for great BBQ, and I hope we’ve helped put Nashville on the map, so to speak. We really have some great spots here in town. I’m just honored to be part of that “conversation,” when folks speak of the restaurants that define Nashville and the surrounding areas.
What’s one iconic dish in Nashville that a visitor cannot miss?
You gotta have a beer at Yazoo Brewing’s tap room. You gotta have a cocktail at Patterson House. You gotta eat a pizza or charcuterie plate at City House. You gotta eat crawfish at 55 South. You gotta see the farm that Capitol Grille has—farm to fork! You gotta take a piss in the men’s bathroom at the Oak Bar in the Hermitage Hotel (I know that’s weird, but trust me!).
That’s not quite a “dish,” but we agree—it is a must! EYW focuses a lot on a city’s historic, traditional foods. What do you think is the future of food/drink in the Nashville area?
Nashville is a very modern and progressive city, largely thanks to the entertainment industry and its influence throughout the world—and if you are thinking “country music,” then I can tell you there is so much more to learn about the cultural landscape here! Nashville has almost doubled in size since the mid-1980s, when it was a regional Southern city. Thanks to that growth, Nashville’s palate has really grown, really taken off. Ten to 15 years ago we were lagging in terms of restaurants, chefs, etc. Now it’s a completely different landscape, and Nashville is on its way to being recognized as one of the very best Southern cities in terms of food and dining.
On EYW, we ask users to share short food memories related to travel, a favorite meal, growing up–anything. Can you share a brief food memory with our readers?
My mi-mi King’s biscuits and blackberry jam. My dad’s steaks. My mom’s fried chicken. Slugburgers and short Cokes with my pa King. Hot summer nights in Mississippi frying catfish with my pa-pa on the carport. My ma-ma’s coconut cake. BBQ sandwich at Thomas & Webb in Henderson, Tennessee.