I was saddened to hear that Nate Thurmond had passed away. The media focused on his basketball career, but I was mourning, it was Big Nate Thurmond, BBQ Pitmaster.
When I met him, I was a young chef trying to build my repertoire, chasing the hot trend of Rediscovered Southern Cuisine. One person after another pointed me to Big Nate's South of Market on Folsom.
How hard could it be?
First time I saw him, he was wearing a rubber butcher's apron meant to cover a man from chest to shoes. On him it finished right about the knees. He was checking the smokers with one of his cooks and giving instructions like an encouraging teacher, the same way he spoke to me as he went about his tasks prepping for lunch. On the back table were some resting smoked briskets. He demonstrated how he liked to separate the point from the flat, how he took off most of the burnt outer bark while the meat rested. I should have been taking notes.
We moved on to his office where he sketched out a menu to feed my staff of 40. Each item had a story or comment that went with it. The man was deep in his menu. I asked him about his Memphis pork sandwich and received a whole geography lesson about regional sauces.