Easton Barbecue Fueled by Pitmaster’s Passion

Meet Joel Easton; a bartender turned pitmaster whose unconventional path led him to the bustling kitchens of Buxton Hall. Now, as Easton Barbecue Company founder, Joel invites you to savor his rich Carolina barbecue heritage, crafted with care and served up with a side of Southern hospitality.

We follow Joel’s journey in this Low and Slow Barbecue Show interview. Starting with his experience in South Carolina’s Midlands through the Asheville scene alongside mentor Elliott Moss, we reveal the path leading to Joel’s Easton Barbecue venture that promises to leave your taste buds tingling with satisfaction.

Keep reading for the highlights from our conversation.

Easton Barbecue Pitmaster Joel Easton speaks with Chigger Willard during The Low & Slow Barbecue Show.
Joel Easton joins Chigger Willard to discuss Easton Barbecue Co. on The Low & Slow Barbecue Show.

From Bar to Pit: Transformation at Buxton Hall

Joel’s path to becoming a pitmaster was unconventional, to say the least.

After spending nearly 14 years as a bartender, Joel craved a change. Outside pressures urged him to pursue a “real job.” However, Joel followed his passion for barbecue, trading cocktails for smokers and bustling kitchens.

A podcast with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl put a place in Asheville in his mind.

“They were asking him who were some of the pitmasters he had a lot of respect for, who he looked up to,” he says. “He named Elliott Moss at Buxton Hall, and that’s how I discovered the place.”

Familiar with Asheville through fly fishing and hiking trips, Joel decided his next visit in the city would include a stop at the barbecue business.

“When I walked in there, it was an atmosphere that I had never experienced in any other restaurant,” he says. “I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

He applied on the spot – without even eating the food. A week later, a callback led to a trial run.

“I did a busy, busy Saturday in the summer months. Apparently, I held my own,” Joel says. “Little did I know how much work would go into running a barbecue restaurant that was open seven days a week. Lunch and dinner, doing whole hog barbecue on top of everything else. At times, I was questioning everything.”

Still, he found the mentorship he sought, diving headlong into the barbecue pit. He was eager to absorb every ounce of knowledge and expertise he could.

Easton Barbecue Co smoker filled with whole hog, ribs and smoke.
The Easton Barbecue Smoker loaded with whole hog and plenty of ribs. Photo from Instagram.

Learning from the Barbecue Masters

At Buxton Hall, Joel’s days were filled with the tantalizing aroma of smoke, the rhythmic dance of flames – and a lot of work.

“I was just there to learn the ropes, but I was learning everything,” he says. “Learning how to deal with exhaustion … learning how to cook whole hog.”

Working alongside Elliott Moss and the talented team at Buxton Hall, Joel gained invaluable insights into the nuances of whole hog barbecue – from selecting the perfect cuts of meat to achieving the ideal balance of smoke and seasoning.

“Elliott always told me, ‘Dude, just make it taste good. If everything is seasoned properly, it doesn’t have to be some chef-y stuff. Just make it all taste good,” he says. “That’s kind of my philosophy when it comes to barbecue.

Perhaps most importantly, working at Buxton Hall, which closed in 2023, Joel learned the importance of dedication and perseverance.

“It was a constant level of exhaustion, but it was also very rewarding,” he says. “I miss Buxton Hall. I miss the people I worked with there, but when it was over, there was a certain level of relief.”

A New Chapter: Easton Barbecue Company Rises

Joel Easton slices brisket for an event.
Joel Easton slices brisket as Easton Barbecue Catering Co caters an event. Photo from Easton Barbecue Instagram.

Despite the closure of Buxton Hall, Joel’s passion for barbecue burned brighter than ever.

“Starting my own company had always been an idea that I had floating around in the back of my mind for months,” he says. “We found out Buxton Hall would be closing their doors … that was the chance.”

Determined to carry on the legacy of Carolina barbecue, he founded Easton Barbecue Company. Armed with the knowledge and skills acquired while working the pits in Asheville, Joel set out to carve his own barbecue path.

“I had to just go get my own smoker, get my LLC, get business accounts started – try to do things on my own,” he said. “It’s been pretty crazy trying to navigate how to start. I can cook recipes, but the business side of things, it’s always been something I’m unfamiliar with.”

From sourcing the finest ingredients to perfecting his smoking techniques, every aspect of Easton Barbecue Company reflects Joel’s unwavering commitment to authenticity. That includes the sides.

“I want my sides to be unique,” he says. “I grew up eating a side called backbone and rice. There was a small meat-and-three place in Sumter, SC, where I grew up, and I’m doing my own version of that.”

Spotlight on Easton Barbecue at the Carolina Barbecue Festival

One of the highlights of Joel’s barbecue journey is his involvement in the Carolina Barbecue Festival. The celebration of all things barbecue brings together pitmasters and enthusiasts from across the region.

For Joel, the festival is more than an opportunity to showcase his skills. It’s a chance to pay homage to the rich culinary heritage of the Carolinas and connect with fellow barbecue aficionados.

During the charity-focused festival’s first two years, he worked in support of Elliott’s whole hog cook and serving. Proceeds from the 2024 Carolina BBQ Festival support Operation BBQ Relief, Folds of Honor, and Hungry Heroes.

“It’s for something bigger than me. Just to be part of it is such a privilege, and I enjoy every second of it,” he says. “I love feeding people. I love the reactions I get when people taste my food,” he says. “But when it’s for supporting causes like that, it makes it mean even more.”

Whether cooking at the Carolina Barbecue Festival or turning his talents toward his own business, Joel’s commitment shines in every dish he serves.

“It’s just rewarding,” he says. “Once you put so much time and effort into cooking these meats … Once it becomes a passion, it’s just the look on people’s faces when they eat your food and it’s damn good.”

Join Joel on Easton Barbecue’s Flavorful Adventure

As Joel continues to carve out his place in the world of barbecue, he invites you to join him on a flavorful adventure. Currently, he caters events throughout the Carolinas, from small parties to large wedding receptions. So far, the reviews have been solid.

“I worked an event at Edisto and had a few Texas guys come through the line,” he says. “They had full cowboy hats and all. They looked at me seriously and were like, ‘All right, we’re going to see how this brisket is and let you know in a few minutes.’

“I was freaking out on the inside, sweating. I was confident at the same time because I know my brisket is fire,” he continues. “Within a minute, I look back, and they were just like, ‘Nice job, dude.’ When you’ve got Texas guys telling you the brisket is solid, you know you can do something well.”

To connect with Joel, follow him on Instagram. Email him at eastonbbqco@gmail.com to step up your next event with wood-smoked meats, seafood, and much more.

Whether you’re a seasoned barbecue enthusiast or a curious newcomer, experiencing the Easton Barbecue Odyssey will fill your mouth with flavor.

Easton Barbecue Co. pitmaster Joel Eason serves smoked ribs.
Joel Easton serves ribs for a recent event catered by Easton Barbecue Co. Photo from Instagram.

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