Bringing The Heat: Eddie Wright BBQ
For thousands of years, man, fire, and meat have come together in a dance to produce not just sustenance, but an experience, for their tribe and community.
Today, that age-old ritual is still being captured with new approaches, and in Pitmaster Eddie Wright's case, the convenience of four wheels.
A true Jacksonian, Wright operates Eddie Wright BBQ out of the same house he was born and raised in. Walking up the driveway, one is greeted by a scaled-out food truck and trailer emblazoned with Wright's logo and nods to his time as a United States Marine. Equally noticeable are the savory, sweet smells drifting out of the multiple smokers loaded into the back.
"When people talk about barbecue, they talk about Memphis, they talk about Kansas City, they talk about Georgia, but they skip every time over Mississippi," Wright says. "Per capita, we have more world champions in more areas than any other state. Most people don't know that. That's why one of my slogans is 'BBQ is Better in Mississippi.'"
"They say everything's bigger in Texas. I come back behind that and say barbecue is better in Mississippi."
Wright's journey to barbecuing and smoking has always been more than experimenting with technique. It's a practice in restoration as a Veteran, and his role as a single dad and caretaker for his brain aneurysm-surviving mother, that keep him returning to the mobile pit and his community every day.
"Cooking was always a therapy element for me as a veteran dealing with some areas of PTSD," Wright says. "Barbecuing was always fun because it put me back in the mind of when I was in the service. All of us from different creeds, colors, and areas of the world would always come together around food. Even before that, my family was the same way. So, I used food and barbecue as a tool to help cope."
At the time, Wright was also looking for a way to support a healthy weight and discovered that grilling allowed him to continue making the foods he enjoyed while shedding pounds and providing a needed outlet.
"I'm in it for one thing as far as weight loss and therapy because it made me feel good to cook, but it's also been great to have people come taste and enjoy it," Wright says. "I was like, 'Hey, I'm happy, you're happy. Everybody's happy.'"
It wasn't until a friend suggested he put some pressure on his culinary prowess that Wright started considering barbecuing as more than a hobby to share with family and friends. Fate knocked on the door again when his role as a cyber security analyst was furloughed during the height of the pandemic in 2019.
"I'm not afraid of risks," Wright says. "I've spent my whole career putting that same pressure behind other people and helping them do things because I believe in pushing people who you feel like are on to something good, and my blessing will come in the end somewhere down the line. I've never worried about it. That's just how I am."
Wright began accumulating more equipment, recipes, and loyal followers over the next two years, eventually landing coveted gigs like the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival in 2021 and a role as judge for Taste of Mississippi this past month. It's his play on the melting pot of Mississippi flavors, like Lemon Pepper Rib Tips, Asian hot sauces and spices, and a future experiment in Blueberry Maple Ribs, that keep hungry patrons returning time and again.
"I've had some great, great fun. I've had some amazing accomplishments and recognition in a very short time and I am extremely lucky and blessed to be accepted into not just the Jackson food community, but the Mississippi culinary and barbecue community," Wright says. "I feel like I'm living the dream. At the end of the day, yes, it's about making sure we stay profitable, but barbecue has essentially purchased everything you see here."
"What better way to get to enjoy life?" Wright says. "You wake up every morning, you turn some fires. It's the middle of the morning, you do what you do. You get smiles on faces at the end of the day, and people continue to come back for more."
To keep up with Wright's journey and barbecue truck, give him a follow on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube.