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Celebrated BBQ Chef Arrives In Atlanta At An Uncertain Time For Restaurants

Award-winning pitmaster and chef Rodney Scott has a new Atlanta restaurant in the Adair Park neighborhood.
Award-winning pitmaster and chef Rodney Scott has a new Atlanta restaurant in the Adair Park neighborhood.
Credit Emil Moffatt/WABE News

Even as Atlantans venture out of their houses again to eat, some parts of the restaurant industry are still recovering from the pandemic. Some places didn’t make it while others are having trouble finding workers.

Pitmaster and chef Rodney Scott has won the prestigious James Beard award, he’s been featured on the show “Chef’s Table” on Netflix and he’s written a book.

He opened his Whole Hog BBQ restaurant in South Carolina a few years ago, then expanded to Birmingham and now, Atlanta, in a converted auto repair shop in the Adair Park neighborhood, across the street from the Met.

That’s where he spoke to WABE on Wednesday. Among the highlights of the conversation:

On expanding to the Adair Park neighborhood in Atlanta

“One of the things that drew us to Atlanta was the fact that it has such a diverse culture, a rich history. When we came into this neighborhood it kind of felt like home, it reminded me of home. We started in what was an old gas station in Hemingway, S.C. When I saw this place and this area, it felt like Hemingway, surrounded by this big city. And I said ‘man this is a great place to start.’ I just fell in love with the old garage set up.”

On recruiting and retaining employees as many are leaving the restaurant industry

“A lot people hire folks and never have another conversation with them. Me, I try to learn their names, I try to figure out what do you enjoy most about the job, what’s your favorite position in the job. All these little things, I like to communicate with them and make sure that they want to come to work, make them happy to come to work, not just thinking ‘I’m just gonna go get a paycheck.’ Let them know that there are opportunities that lie within our operation.”

On opening a new restaurant with the pandemic still going and a resurgence of infections

“In our case, we have a walk-up window if you don’t feel comfortable sitting in a restaurant. You can come in and order your food to go. So, I feel like it’s going to be fine. The pandemic is what it is. I feel like if we stay safe and adjust ourselves accordingly, we’ll be fine.”