Feast on This

A smorgasbord of ways to profit from your passion for food

Despite mixed reviews from critics and bloggers, the restaurant has been consistently packed and the Neelys, who partnered with Merchants Hospitality Inc.—a restaurant management company with 10 other properties—seem undaunted by their first foray into business north of the Mason-Dixon Line. “We were approached by various organizations about doing restaurants in different cities,” Pat says. “But it had to be the right fit. Our partners here fit like a glove. From the top to the bottom, they are very passionate about everything from the décor to the quality of the food.” The Neelys have spent a lot of time in New York, where Food Network is based, and Pat, who went to work at his uncle Jim’s barbecue restaurant at 15 years old, brings a seasoned veteran’s confidence and his infectious passion to the process.

The Neely’s 220-seat, bi-level space is a long way from Pat’s original foray into business—a small shop in Memphis with a few tables and chairs and one barbecue pit launched with three of his brothers and $20,000 borrowed from their 94-year-old grandmother. The business had grown and was thriving by the time Gina and Pat were discovered at their Nashville location during a shoot for another Food Network show, Road Tasted with Bobby and Jamie Deen, sons of food star Paula Deen. “I always tell people we didn’t go looking for television,” says Pat. “Television found us.”

With their first cookbook reaching No. 8 on The New York Times Best Sellers list, the Neelys are preparing to embark on a 16-city tour to promote their just-released second book, The Neelys’ Celebration Cookbook: Down-Home Meals for Every Occasion, and they are reflecting on the blessings and challenges of their success. “You have to be ready for the opportunity,” says Gina. “Oftentimes we’ll want [something], but we don’t really want to do the work that it takes to have it. You can want it, want it, want it, but you’ve got to work!” The Neelys insist that their true power is rooted in two simple things: love (for each other, God, and what they do), and a work ethic that never quits. As restaurateurs for more than 20 years, they say these keys to their success existed long before anyone outside of their hometown of Memphis ever heard of them, and are what keep them grounded now that seemingly everyone has.

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  • Angel

    Ryan, it is so GREAT seeing your heart for God, and spnaedirg His truth whether it is at LBCCS or elsewhere. I’m sure that over the last two years at LBCCS that you have been a big encouragement to people, but I am also totally convinced that as you move on into what God has for you in the future, that you will continue to be a GREAT blessing and encouragement to those who cross your path.

  • Bthina

    Wow, I can’t even find the words to express how tochued I am. I absolutely love it! The story you created through these photographs and the composition in which you have presented them has tochued my heart and once again I have counted my blessings. Not only have I thanked God for the blessing of my family shown in these pictures but, also for my family that made these beautiful images possible. Thank you, T2 and Sarah. However, Sarah IS in the pictures which I think is very cool!!!!!!! We love you both!

  • Yulie

    Ma’m, I’m new in cooking benagli food for my husband & as im living in australia, mostly i call my mom back in Bangladesh for any kind of recipes,instructions. but as im a born hindu married to a christian (Foriegner who seems to love the bangladeshi cooking style!!), my mom cant help me out with beef recipes (Not that she knows i cook beef at home haha) anyway i was looking online for a beef liver bhuna recipe for the last 3 hours & only now I found ur blog & I have a feeling this will b very helpful! thank u so mch for blogging these wonderful recipes here & a special thanks to ur children who help u put these recipes on ur blog.Best wishes,R