NASA engineer Howard Conyers is pretty talented.
He’s an aerospace engineer, Ph.D graduate, lecturer, historian and traditional whole-hog barbecue pitmaster.
He’ll show off his culinary skills on the Cooking Channel’s “Man Fire Food” on Tuesday at 9 p.m., according to NASA.
Conyers, of New Orleans, couldn’t share too many details about his appearance on the show before it airs. But it’s sure to include his passion for Carolina whole-hog barbecue, along with its history.
Conyers, who was raised near Manning, S.C., a rural town of about 4,000, grew up with whole-hog barbecue and now wants to share the tradition with others.
“I’ve been involved with whole hog barbecuing since I was four years old, watching my father,” Conyers told NASA, adding that he cooked his first whole hog at 11 years old, continuing to perfect his skills until he headed to college in North Carolina.
Conyers earned his undergraduate degree at North Carolina A&T State University and a doctorate in mechanical engineering and materials science from Duke University. He later accepted a position at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and settled down in nearby New Orleans in 2009. He wanted to help the community still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
“I saw it as a way to help rebuild and give back to the community,” Conyers told NASA. “I made the decision to accept the job at Stennis partially because of that opportunity.”
But on trips back to South Carolina, Conyers said he realized that whole-hog barbecue was dying.
“Ultimately, I realized it was my responsibility to carry it on,” he said.
So Conyers started cooking competitively, gaining recognition for his traditional barbecue and his story as a rocket-scientist-turned-pitmaster.
Now he’s a historian and lecturer on the South Carolina whole-hog tradition. He’s even working on a book about it.
That recognition earned him a spot on “Man Fire Food,” where he’ll show off his traditional skills, backed up by his engineering experience – like using a converted refrigerator to cook, or a burn barrel to make his own coals.
“What I do is really an art form and skill,” Conyers said. “It’s a true tradition, and I want to maintain that tradition. At the same time, I want to seek ways to improve the technical process itself.”
For more information on Conyers, go to go.nasa.gov/2sQ0PBT.