Pitmaster Carey Bringle’s family settled in Covington, Tennessee way back in 1827, and to say that his family had a passion for BBQ is an understatement. A Nashville native with deep-seated roots in West Tennessee BBQ culture, Carey developed an appreciation for ‘cue at a young age. In fact, Carey was raised on iconic West Tennessee BBQ. His grandfather, Dr. Carey Bringle, Sr., grew up cooking hogs and as an adult, Dr. Bringle delivered the children of many of the famous barbecue families in West Tennessee. Carey still remembers family gatherings at places like Bozo’s Hot Pit Bar-B-Q, Lewis’s Store, and Leonard’s Pit Barbecue. There is no getting around it — smoke is in his veins.
Carey was mentored in competitive barbecuing by his uncle, Bruce Bringle, who competed in the very first Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in 1976. Today, Carey has demonstrated his talents in the “Super Bowl of Swine” for more than 25 years. And with his former team, Hog Wild, Carey took second place on three separate occasions.
At 17, Carey was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer. After months of intensive chemotherapy Carey lost his right leg, but he emerged from that experience with a new perspective and outlook on life, realizing that every day brings new adventures, new experiences, and another chance to enjoy great food.
Now his zest for life and sense of humor is reflected in his signature Peg Leg Porker brand. Peg Leg Porker opened in 2013 to offer Peg Leg Porker sauces and rubs, a new line of professional-grade home smokers, and Peg Leg Porker Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey. And of course, Carey still offers his award-winning BBQ at his restaurant located in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood at 903 Gleaves Street.
In 2013, Peg Leg Porker was named one of the 16 hottest BBQ joints in the country by Eater National. In 2014, Cooking with Paula Dean magazine named Peg Leg Porker one of the top 10 BBQ joints in the United States.
Carey has been featured in dozens of national TV shows, including the Food Network’s Chopped Grill Masters, Bizarre Foods America on the Travel Channel, Hungry Brothers on TLC, and BBQ Crawl on the Travel Channel.
Carey was recently invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City with Chef Tandy Wilson. In 2015, Carey will return as a featured chef at Hogs for the Cause in New Orleans, which benefits pediatric cancer research.
WITH Carey Bringle
We called up Peg Leg Porker pitmaster Carey Bringle to talk dry ribs, BBQ road trips, and the secret to a good sauce.
Tell us about what you’ll be cooking at Q in the Lou and why you chose to bring that dish and side to St. Louis.
We will be bringing our signature dry ribs and a side of slaw. We chose this dish because preparing dry ribs the right way is a dying art and it is our specialty. We smoke the ribs with nothing on them and then they get the dry seasoning right before they hit the plate. That is a true dry rib. Our slaw is a mayonnaise-based slaw that is creamy and a great compliment to our ribs.
If you had to offer one helpful tip to the backyard barbecuers of the world, what would it be?
Have fun. Cooking BBQ is about having fun and being with friends and family. It's not rocket science, it's about time and temperature.
Describe the Peg Leg Porker menu in one word.
What was your barbecue epiphany?
I don't know that I ever had a BBQ epiphany. My family was rooted in BBQ culture. When I was in high school and college, my grandmother would send me any article about BBQ that appeared in the paper in Memphis. I guess my earliest memory of BBQ was at Lewis's store in Moscow, Tennessee. My grandfather delivered the children of that family and I remember going with my grandmother. They had silver dollars in the floor. I was hooked.
Who is or was the biggest influence on your cooking?
My late Uncle Bruce taught me how to cook BBQ and his mother, my grandmother Eva Gene Bringle (E.G.), pushed me in the direction of BBQ from a very young age.
What’s your must-have tool for barbecue prep?
When you’re in the mood to cook something besides BBQ, what do you cook?
I love to cook steak.
You have a successful line of sauces. So what’s the key to a great homemade sauce?
Make what you like. I like a tomato-based BBQ sauce. That is traditional in Tennessee. Also, keep it simple. Start with a base and work your way into complexity.
What’s it like to cook on a TV show?
Some are fun, some are tedious, some are nerve-racking. I don't get nervous often but Chopped had my stomach rumbling with anxiety. I prefer shoots that we do live.