/Barbecue basted in the blues at The Shed

Barbecue basted in the blues at The Shed

This is the weekly ‘Sip of Culture. It’s a partnership between Mississippi Today Magazine and The Sip Magazine. Visit The Sip’s website to see more stories like these or to sign up for The Sip. Brad Orrison doesn’t consider “barbecue” a verb. It’s not something that you do. It goes beyond the food that ends up on a paper plate with baked beans and potato salad. Orrison said that when you think about your favorite barbecue, it is not just the taste and texture of the meat. It’s also the place you are at that time in your life.” It’s a family affair and takes time. Orrison, along with his siblings Brooke and Brett, founded The Shed in Ocean Springs, California, in 2001. There, he envisioned a barbecue paradise. The Shed is part juke-house, part restaurant, with a family picnic feel. The Shed’s menu features Southern barbecue favorites like pecan-wood smoked babyback, spare, and full-rack pork, along with brisket and sausage and a variety of sides and desserts. The Shed has its own Food Network reality series. In just 15 years, they have also created a nationally-recognized sauce and rub line. Perhaps the most prestigious title is the 2015 Grand World Championship title at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. The Shed’s roots are in the shared food-and music experiences Orrison had while he was an Ole Miss student in the 1990s. He and his friends used to drive up Highway 4 through Marshall County just to attend Junior Kimbrough’s Sunday night jams. Orrison stated that Junior’s was where he learned how to cook large, prime cuts of pork overnight. I learned a lot about cooking, music, and how to live at the juke joints, particularly Junior’s. To get in and see R.L., you’d have to pay $1. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Kenny Brown are all welcome. I knew there was a place that I could feel welcome and where everyone was welcome. It was like a big family reunion.” While things got a little tense at some of the more popular juke joints, such as Junior’s where the fridge was locked and padlocked and people had to open it each time they wanted beer, the experience stayed with him and influenced his philosophy for The Shed. Orrison stated, “I wanted everyone to have the same perpetual smile.” There’s music, art to see on the walls, people dancing, enjoying good food, and having fun. It was important to me that it be done in a more family-friendly setting. The Shed offers live music every night and wraps at 9 or 10 p.m. so that the children can enjoy it.” The quirky, trash-as treasure aesthetic appeal of this eatery is honest. Orrison was inspired by college. He would spend his time looking for bargains along the roadsides or in dumpsters. Students moved in and out of college each semester, leaving behind personal possessions and furniture. The Shed received some of his corrugated tin collection, but other less obvious items also contributed to the cause. Orrison would often pay $50 to enter derelict homes before they were demolished. He was mostly interested in kitchen appliances and building materials. He found a large collection old vinyl records in one house. Although he didn’t know its value, it proved to be very useful later on when they needed funds to open The Shed. He posted an advertisement in Penny Pincher’s classifieds, offering the whole lot of 3,000 albums at $3,000. Brooke Lewis, co-founder and chief financial officers, stated that the collector purchased them immediately after she saw them. She was an avid collector and knew exactly what she had. One of them was a promotional Elvis Presley 45 rpm record that she sold for $4,500. We needed the money to open. The $3,000 purchased our first meat stock. It was a win/win.” The Shed’s family ties go beyond bloodlines. The restaurant was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and was able to reopen in two weeks. The Shed’s 50 employees, as well as their families, were able to enjoy stability thanks to the work. Lewis said, “We tried our best to keep the spirits high.” Lewis said that ninety-nine per cent of The Shed employees had lost their entire lives, which included me. To protect our crew members, we felt it was our responsibility to open the doors as soon as possible. They needed income.” Crew members kept their heads down and “sling ‘cue”, as she puts it. They worked until December when The Shed gave them a month off — with pay. Many of them used this time to clean up their homes and support each other’s families. Katrina brought down the community, but the fire that destroyed most of the Shed structure in 2012 brought them together. Lewis said that the “remodeling” brought together barbecue friends from all over the country and local people to rebuild. They now operate a kitchen that served a different purpose than the original restaurant. The new Shed was further back from the roads around the lean tos and other pieces that were not destroyed. The joint’s loyal customers, the ShedHeds (or ShedHeds), also joined in. Many of Brad’s original reclaimed treasures were gone so ShedHeds donated pieces from their homes to decorate the new space. We reached out to you and asked for your items. Lewis said, “Bring your antique license plates and your tacky chandelier from the attic. We love it when people stop by and ask, “See that license plate there?” It’s mine. Or, that’s my piano. It was my childhood piano, which I never used again. I gave it to The Shed because it lets the community know that The Shed has their home. It may seem like a collection of random items to the untrained eye, but that is not the truth. Each piece of decor at The Shed tells a story.” Flood and fire transformed the original Highway 57 location of 330 feet into a franchise. It opened with six bar stools, a pair of two top tables and six bar stools. Orrison and his company have not lost sight of their original vision despite the expansion. The menu has not changed much. They have fun and persevere through difficult times with joy. Some of the musicians Brad met at Hill Country juke joints, such as Cedric Burnside or Lightnin’ Malcolm stop by regularly to entertain. Orrison stated that at least two blues bands have been playing every week since the juke joints opened. It’s been always free. It’s more than a million dollars if you do the math. This is how we say it. It all began with that blues album collection.”