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  • Tara Crutchfield

The Cultivated Pig

Kevin Aydelott and Jimmy Fox, from different West Texas towns, met at church in 1998. They’ve been best friends ever since. Twenty-five years later, the pair established The Cultivated Pig, a refined live-fire mobile restaurant specializing in Texas-inspired smoked meats. 


Years after they met, Kevin moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, and started culinary school, while Jimmy moved to Jacksonville as a software programmer. He would be promoted to IT Director at his company while Kevin climbed the ranks as a chef at the Four Seasons Resort in Dallas. Six years later, Chef Kevin was moved to the new Four Seasons at Disney, and Jimmy went on to start another tech company. 


Kevin started doing barbecue competitions on the side and asked Jimmy to help. “We had a tiny little smoker,” Jimmy said, laughing. Where they grew up, according to Jimmy, “Texas barbecue is basically only brisket. It’s about cooking the meat, so the meat tastes really beefy. It should taste beefier than a really good steak. […] We realized that’s not the theme in competition circuits. They have a vision, and it’s whoever can get closest to that vision, not necessarily what tastes the best.”  


They did a few competitions before realizing that wasn’t their arena. According to the pair, “Being native Texans, we were used to having the meat stand-alone by itself and not adding any sugary sauces to it to achieve a certain flavor profile.”


A few years later, the pandemic descended. “Covid kind of put a lot of things into perspective for me,” said Kevin. “I wanted to do my own thing for a while.” He was furloughed for nine months during the pandemic. “I built up the courage to go out on my own.” He, of course, asked his best bud, Jimmy, to join him on his barbecue journey. 


Looking to turn their barbecue competition team into a bona fide business, the two friends sought out a commissary kitchen. “We came to Catapult, met [Kitchen Director] Maggie [Leach], and saw the facilities, and I was like, ‘There’s nobody better than this,’” said Kevin. “Lakeland has been a really good, fostering area for small businesses,” Jimmy added. 


The Cultivated Pig has been in business as a live-fire mobile restaurant for over a year and it has become both of their “double full-time” jobs. Over that year, they’ve built a Cultivated Pig cult following and battled everything from unpredictable thunderstorms to sweltering heat. (Traveling with a 16-foot smoker, the ambient temperature can get up to 140 degrees during the summer.)   


THE FOOD


The Cultivated Pig boasts Texas-inspired fare. Jimmy and Kevin have their own dry rub to season the meat and don’t use sugary sauces. Though they offer sauce for customers to use at their discretion, “We’ve dubbed our barbeque sauce, ‘After-THOT (those hogs over there) Sauce,’” said Jimmy. 


“I think what sets us apart is where most people use apple cider vinegar to spray with; we use wine,” said Kevin. They use Lakeridge Winery’s Southern Red. 


The two friends smoke everything from brisket and pulled pork to spareribs, pork belly, and whole turkeys. “We don’t take any shortcuts,” Kevin said. “If it takes 15 hours to cook, it takes 15 hours to cook.” 


One of their most popular dishes doesn’t have any meat in it. This vegan dish consists of Japanese eggplant cooked directly on the coals, served on a bed of garlic hummus, mint, extra virgin olive oil, and tajin. “We sell that vegan option to more meat eaters than we do vegans,” said Jimmy. 


The Cultivated Pig recently won a grant from Catapult for a dry-ager. They plan to start making biltong, a South African dried, cured meat, using various types of meat like beef, lamb, and ostrich. 


If all this talk of succulent barbecue has you salivating, check out the Cultivated Pig menu for Swantoberfest (they’ll be there on October 13 from 3-10 pm): house-made smoked pastrami, duck fat-braised red cabbage, beer-braised brats, TCP smoked sausage hot dogs on a pretzel bun with house-made sauerkraut, regular, spicy, and whole grain mustards, baked potato salad, and a pulled pork sandwich with mustard sauce and sauerkraut on a pretzel bun. I see beer and brats in my future. 


THE FUTURE  


The pair recently met the owners of Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply, whom they hope to partner with for manufacturing. “We’re trying to keep things honest-to-God, Lakeland-local,” Jimmy said.  “We would prefer to get a lot of our raw ingredients from local farmers and ranchers, not just pay lip service to it.”


“We call this phase being ‘on tour,’” Jimmy said. Their aim is to build exposure before entering a brick and mortar. “There are different things we want to do, not just be a restaurant,” said Kevin. They hope to be a dining destination similar to Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, where people from across the country come to eat. 


“We don’t want to be pigeonholed into ‘barbecue.’ Because when people think ‘barbecue,’ they think sugary sauces, cheap stuff. But barbecue is a style of cooking,” said Kevin. “We want to offer a different experience.” The Cultivated Pig could be a live fire smokehouse before we know it. Fingers crossed! 

 

Photography by Amy Sexson


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