OAKLAND, CALIF. – On April 26, Kingsford Products Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Clorox Co., announced the inaugural class of the Preserve the Pit Fellowship. These barbecue professionals will receive a grant, immersive training and one-on-one mentorship from industry leaders throughout 2021 providing the resources to take their businesses to new levels and further the legacy and influence of the Black barbecue community.

Kingsford launched Preserve the Pit on Jan. 25 and received nearly 1,000 applications during the application period. The Preserve the Pit mentor network includes Kevin Bludso, Howard Conyers, PhD, Devita Davison, Bryan Furman, Rashad Jones and Amy Mills, all industry leaders who chose the fellows based on, but not limited to, a commitment to the future success of the Black barbecue community.

“We are blown away by the interest in Preserve the Pit and the passion that was conveyed by applicants for strengthening the Black barbecue community,” said Shaunte Mears-Watkins, vice president of strategy and marketing for Kingsford. “The selected fellows are motivated to begin their experience as a Preserve the Pit fellow, and we're happy to be able to support them throughout their journey.”

The inaugural class of the Preserve the Pit Fellowship are:

Cory and Tarra Davis Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Owners of Daddy Pete's BBQ since 2012, Cory and Tarra Davis have a passion for barbecue that they share with their friends, family and community. Through the fellowship, their goal is to build a stronger foundation for their business operations to ensure their restaurant continues to successfully operate beyond their generation.

Chef Shalamar Lane (Carson, Calif.) – As the head chef and owner of My Father's Barbeque, Lane brings southern hospitality to California by using delicious barbecue as a way to bring people together. As a result of the mentorship, she hopes to improve her management skills to further her business' success and continue to teach her employees and community about the history of barbecue.

Ronald Simmons (Kenansville, NC) – Simmons and his family own Master Blend Family Farms LLC, which provides whole hogs and premium pork products to restaurants and privately owned businesses in his community. They've hosted farm tours in collaboration with several local schools and hope to transition one of the farms, which has been in the family for over a century, into a farm school and develop a whole hog barbecue station to share their heritage of barbecue and create a path of opportunity for future generations.

Kingsford expanded the program due to the high volume of deserving applicants and added 10 additional recipients to each receive a $7,500 grant. Recipients can use the money at their discretion to continue preserving the culture and history of Black barbecue in America and fuel its future.

These recipients are:

  • Melissa Cottingham – Melnificent Wingz (Los Angeles)
  • Aaron Gonerway – Plates by the Pound BBQ (Denver)
  • Pamela Henry – Pam's Magic Cauldron (Smyrna, Ga.)
  • Daniel Hammond – Smoky Soul Barbecue Chicago (Chicago)
  • Brandon Norman – Memphis Original BBQ (Atoka, Tenn.)
  • Demetris R. – Making the CuTX (Newport, Vt.)
  • Erica Roby – Blue Smoke Blaire (Dayton, Ohio)
  • Christopher Simmons – The Qulinary Oasis BBQ (DeSoto, Texas)
  • Gerald Vinnett – Big Papi's Smokehouse (Destrehan, La.)
  • Eddie Wright – Eddie Wright BBQ (Jackson, Miss.)

Click here to listen to Preserve the Pit mentor, Rashad Jones, talk about the program and what it, and barbecue, mean to him on the MEAT+POULTRY Podcast.