Playing with Fire

BBQ Pit Master Rodney Scott’s decades of hard work have earned him praise from fine dining’s biggest names — but if you ask him, he’s just having fun
June 7, 2018Words by Luis Angel CancelPhotos by Jeff Masamori

The hottest club in Charleston is also probably the most exclusive. There are usually only 2-3 people inside its matte black-painted walls at a time. The impressive sound system pours out a steady stream of Soul, New Jack Swing, Funk, and R&B. Then there’s the heat. The room is thick with smoke. And what’s that over there? Three whole hogs dripping over coals.

"All these years, what keeps me going? I look forward to listening to music every day. I'm having fun all day long, it doesn't feel like work. It's like getting paid to have fun."

Ok, maybe it’s technically not a club but for world-renowned BBQ Pit Master Rodney Scott, everything revolves around music. "All these years, what keeps me going? I look forward to listening to music every day. I'm having fun all day long, it doesn't feel like work. It's like getting paid to have fun."

Few people could make the tremendous amount of work that he pours into his namesake, Scott’s BBQ, feel so effortless. Not long before we caught up with Rodney, he’d been named a James Beard Award Finalist — a distinction typically reserved for places with starchy tablecloths and a confusing number of forks, not BBQ joints. If the secret to worldwide acclaim was as simple as a playlist, there would be thousands of chefs out there trying to hack his Spotify account.

Rodney’s technique cuts no corners. His apprenticeship in the craft of whole hog barbecue began at age 11 at his parents’ roadside joint a couple hours away in rural Hemingway, SC. Fast forward a couple decades and the old-school, slow, labor-intensive approach honed in his hometown has made for some ridiculously delicious food at his own outpost in Charleston. These days, big-name chefs like Sean Brock and Anthony Bourdain are counted among Rodney’s fans. But if you ask him, he’ll reply in his typically humble way. “Honestly, it’s no different — other than more hungry faces.” - [H]

Is your stomach growling? Well, you can get a taste of Rodney Scott's BBQ for yourself at 1011 King Street in Charleston, SC from 11AM to 9PM every day.

Rodney's Banana Puddin' Recipe

"Here, he's not lookin'." With that, Rodney slipped each of us a few 'Nilla Wafers. Moments earlier, as he whipped up his famed banana pudding, his business partner smilingly shook his head when Rodney poured heaps of these cookies into the recipe. Food costs and margins are the daily headache of restaurant owners—even James Beard Award-winners—and it turns out 'Nilla Wafers ain't cheap. But the childlike, mischievous fun Rodney was having as he prepared the dish was infectious. It all makes sense when you learn that this dessert recipe's been in the family as long as anyone can remember. Rodney grew up eating this banana puddin (they leave off the 'g' on the menu) and its custardy, cookie-piled goodness is heavily seasoned with nostalgia. Sure enough, everyone in our crew was beaming ear to ear as we dug into our portions. It pays to break the rules sometimes. Get the recipe below and fold some of Rodney's family tradition into your own.


• 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

Pinch of salt

• 3 large egg yolks

• 3 cups milk

• 1 box vanilla wafers approximately 45 wafers

• 5-6 bananas

• 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

• 1/4 cup sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


• Preheat oven to 325º F.

• Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large, heavy saucepan.

• Lightly beat egg yolks and combine with milk in a large bowl or measuring cup. 

• Pour the egg and milk mixture into dry ingredients in heavy saucepan. 

• Cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until ingredients are thickened and smooth. 

• Remove saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla.

• To layer your banana pudding, begin by placing vanilla wafers on the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish, glass bowl, or another 3-quart container.

• Slice bananas and place on top of wafers.

• Pour one-third of custard over wafers and bananas.

• Repeat layering process two more times until all wafers, bananas, and custard have been used. Ending with a final layer of wafers for decorative purposes.


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