Kingsford Doubles Down, Helps Aspiring Black Barbecue Professionals

Kingsford Doubles Down, Helps Aspiring Black Barbecue Professionals

As a leader in barbecue for more than 100 years, Kingsford remains committed to celebrating Black barbecue culture by launching its second year of the Preserve the Pit fellowship and doubling its commitment to investing in aspiring barbecue professionals.

(Courtesy of Kingsford)

In its inaugural year, Kingsford received more than 1,500 applications and awarded three barbecue entrepreneurs with an immersive industry fellowship. Due to the outpouring of interest and inspiring stories, the program was expanded to also include 10 small business grants. The Fellows received immersive training and one-on-one mentorship from industry leaders who share Kingsford’s commitment to honoring the history and culture of Black barbecue, according to a press release, provided to BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“We were overwhelmed by the response to Preserve the Pit last year and the incredible work done by our Mentor Network and Fellows,” said Ram Gopalakrishnan, marketing director at Kingsford.

“While the first year of the fellowship was a success, we know that many of the same systemic issues in the barbecue industry exist today which is why we’re doubling our investment in the Black barbecue community.”

In year two, Kingsford aims to name six aspiring barbecue professionals as Preserve the Pit Fellows. Ten deserving applicants will also be provided with grants to kick start their small businesses. Additionally, Pat Neely will be joining the effort as a new mentor alongside Dr. Howard Conyers, pitmaster and educator on the history of Southern barbecue, and the returning Mentor Network including Kevin Bludso, Devita Davison, Bryan Furman, Rashad Jones, and Amy Mills.

“Working with the first class of Fellows and mentors last year was incredibly inspiring and rewarding,” said Dr. Howard Conyers.

“I remain confident that through our shared passion, Kingsford, the Mentor Network, and I can continue to provide resources and business opportunities to help future generations thrive in the barbecue industry and keep them connected to the culture and history of the craft.”

To further honor the Black community’s contributions to American barbecue, Kingsford teamed up with artist-activist Brandan “BMike” Odums to create a special edition Preserve the Pit bag, which is available for purchase in Walmart stores nationwide. The bag titled “Pass it On” is inspired by the Black barbecue traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation and in hopes that the traditions continue to burn bright. The art has also been memorialized as a mural at the historic Black-owned Payne’s BBQ in Memphis, Tenn. A portion of the sales from the “Pass it On” bag will be reinvested into Preserve the Pit to continue to pave the way for future generations of Black barbecue enthusiasts.

Those interested in the fellowship are invited to review the eligibility requirements and apply now through Mar. 1, 2022, with the second class of fellows being announced in April. No purchase is necessary to apply or participate. Kingsford and its Mentor Network will select the 2022 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. Through the immersive mentorship process, the Fellows will:

— Learn necessary skills with hands-on and immersive industry training

— Create lasting relationships with key leaders and experts in the industry

— Receive capital investment to kick-start their business