Food Network's Carla Hall visits Leonard's Pit Barbecue in Memphis for upcoming special

Dima Amro
Memphis Commercial Appeal
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Food Network star Carla Hall stopped by Memphis' historic Leonard's Pit Barbecue for a history lesson on ribs.

Hall and a film crew sat down with former Leonard's owner Dan Brown on Tuesday at the 5465 Fox Plaza Drive restaurant to discuss the rib-making process and its history for a Food Network special, said Jayson Nadal, the restaurant's general manager.

"She came to (Leonard's) to see how Memphis, the South, does their ribs," Nadal said, adding Hall will visit other locations, including Jamaica, to see different cooking processes.

"This morning they taped the full process of the ribs coming out of the smoker, how we test to see if they're done or not and then how they're put in the smoker, how the wood is done and how we lightly dust them with our dry rub."

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He said after Hall watched the rib-making process she tried the restaurant's dry, wet and muddy ribs.

Dan Brown, former owner of Leonard's Pit Barbecue, says Elvis Presley would have to call ahead and come in after hours.

Then Hall and Brown talked about how the phrase "baby back ribs" came to be and Leonard's 99 years in Memphis as the city's oldest barbecue restaurant, Nadal said.

Hall and her crew will continue filming Tuesday at the restaurant and around Memphis, he said.

Nadal said Leonard's will be featured in a special on the history of ribs going back hundreds of years. Details on when the show will air were not available Tuesday, he said.

"Carla is very friendly and personable, got a lot of energy," Nadal said. "Her and Dan have their banter, as they were talking it was great, there was no awkward or odd moment."

He said since Hall came to Leonard's there has been "good chemistry."

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Nashville-native Hall is a TV personality featured on multiple shows including "Top Chef" and "Holiday Baking Championship."

Leonard Heuberger opened the barbecue restaurant in 1922 when it started as a stand with five stools. At the time, a barbecue sandwich was only 5 cents.

Brown bought Leonard's from Heuberger in 1993, then he retired this year and sold it to Wendy McCrory, Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken owner.

Commercial Appeal reporter Jennifer Chandler contributed to this report.

Dima Amro covers the suburbs for The Commercial Appeal and can be reached at [email protected].

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