Durham restaurant owners launch barbecue festival

Green Button Farm owner Ryan Butler, chef Ben Adams and pitmaster Wyatt Dickson have organized a three-day festival, N.C. Barbecue Revival.
Green Button Farm owner Ryan Butler, chef Ben Adams and pitmaster Wyatt Dickson have organized a three-day festival, N.C. Barbecue Revival. Sara D. Davis

Durham barbecue pitmaster Wyatt Dickson wanted a reason to get his fellow pitmasters together and the result is the N.C. Barbecue Revival.

Dickson, who is co-owner of Picnic in Durham, and his business partners, chef Ben Adams and farmer Ryan Butler, have organized the three-day festival, which starts Friday.

The event brings together a handful of barbecue pitmasters from across the South (as well as one from Brooklyn) to cook and talk barbecue, and the public is invited to eat and listen. The event culminates with a pig pickin’ on Sunday afternoon.

“We had a really positive response from the barbecue community when we floated this idea,” Dickson explained. “They see the need for this conversation. It wasn’t just us who were thinking it.”

With barbecue being one of the most debated topics out there, I had to ask Dickson what conversation he felt hadn’t been explored when it came to ’cue. He answered in part by describing what they didn’t want this event to be: Not a competition. Not a discussion about the regional differences. Not any one person selling their product or brand.

Dickson said he really envisioned the event as a chance for pitmasters, experts and fans to come together to talk about barbecue as a cultural institution. “We wanted to honor what we do and talk about our past, present and future,” Dickson said.

He later added: “It is really about bringing people together for some barbecue fellowship.”

Beyond barbecue, the event includes talks, discussions, classes and meals with local and regional authors, chefs, bartenders and others. Plus, it’s all happening on Butler’s 40-acre Green Button Farm, about 15 miles north of Durham, where he raises hogs for the Picnic restaurant.

So of course, Dickson is most excited about the time he will get to spend with his fellow pitmasters. “I’m most pumped about staying up all night cooking with my compatriots,” he said.

And the results will likely bring out the crowds.

More Information

The inaugural N.C. Barbecue Revival is from Oct. 28-30 at Green Button Farm in Bahama.

The participating pitmasters and chefs include Wyatt Dickson of Picnic in Durham; Sam Jones of Skylight Inn BBQ and Sam Jones BBQ in Ayden and Winterville; Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin BBQ in Savannah, Ga.; Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Mike Moore of Old Etowah Smokehouse in Asheville; and John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, S.C.

Here is the schedule of events:

▪ A five-course Oct. 28 dinner cooked by Justin Burdett of Local Provisions in Asheville and Ben Adams of Picnic and wine by sommelier Inez Ribustello of On the Square in Tarboro. Cost: $250.

▪ A whole hog butchery class with chef Steve Goff, formerly of Standard Foods in Raleigh, and Green Button farmer Ryan Butler from 10-11:30 a.m. Oct. 29. Cost: $45.

▪ A pie baking class with Scratch bakery owner Phoebe Lawless of Durham from 10-11:30 a.m. Oct. 29. Cost: $45.

▪ A Southern sides lunch cooked by Elliot Moss of Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville from noon-1:30 p.m. Oct. 29. Cost: $50-$80.

▪ Barbecue expert Robert Moss will speak from 2-3:30 p.m. Oct. 29 about barbecue facts and myths based on his book, “Barbecue: History of an American Institution.” Cost: $45.

▪ From 2-3:30 p.m., Wyatt Dickson of Picnic and other pitmasters will start preparing the pigs for Sunday’s feast. Ponysaurus and Fullsteam beer will be served. Cost: $45.

▪ Bourbon tasting class from 4-5 p.m. Oct. 29 with Gary Crunkleton of The Crunkleton bar in Chapel Hill. Cost: $45.

▪ From 5:30-10 p.m. Oct. 29, an oyster roast and progressive farm dinner. Chefs include Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn, N.Y., John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, S.C., and Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin BBQ in Savannah, Ga. Cost: $125.

▪ From noon-4 p.m. Oct. 30, a pig pickin’ and picnic. Tickets cost $25 per adult and $10 per child age 11-15. Free for children age 10 and under.

There are also two free events: a tour of Green Button Farm at 5 p.m. Oct. 29 and a BBQ church event at 11 a.m. Oct. 30 featuring several pitmasters and author Rien Fertel, author of “The One True Barbecue,” author Robert Moss and Washington Post columnist Jim Shahin.

To purchase tickets, go to