Ayden, North Carolina
Sam Jones is the third generation to cook traditional whole hog barbecue at Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina. While the Jones family helped put Carolina barbecue on the map, Sam has personally been named as one of the “Top Ten Pitmasters in South” by Southern Living, his family’s restaurant, Skylight Inn, was honored with a James Beard Award for “Americas Classics,” and he opened his own restaurant, Sam Jones BBQ, in November 2015.
What goes through your head when you first wake up in the morning when you barbecue?
What do I have to do today?
Who are your heroes?
My grandfather and my dad have obviously had a huge influence. In my case, they not only raised me, but also taught me the business.
What haven’t you accomplished that you aspire to do in your lifetime?
I want to make a difference. I am a very blessed man. I want to continue to work hard, hopefully open more restaurants, which will lead to being able to do a lot of good.
What part of you, or what you do, reflects a spirit of restlessness?
When you cook whole hogs with wood, restlessness isn’t a big problem!
If there is any love-hate relationship with any aspect of what you do, can you describe what that is?
I often ask myself when I’m on an elevator at 3:30 in the morning headed down to cook at an event, “So, you wanted to cook BBQ for a living? Good call!" I love what I do. I hate that it requires getting up quite so early. I’m not a guy who enjoys getting up quite that early.
What sound or noise do you love?
A steel guitar.
What would be your day job if you weren’t doing what you are currently doing?
A career firefighter. I originally wanted be a firefighter when I finished school. I settled for being a volunteer firefighter and a full-time BBQ guy. I currently serve as Chief of Ayden Fire & Rescue.
If you could bring anybody in the world with you to do what you love (dead or alive), who would it be?
That would be my grandfather (Pete Jones). He opened our original restaurant in 1947. I would love for him to travel with me to events and to see where BBQ has gone.