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Restaurateur of the Year: Neely's Bar-B-Que
March 7, 2007
By Jennifer Chandler

In addition to local recognition, Neely's Bar-B-Que is basking in glow of the national spotlight

February was a good month for Patrick Neely.

He was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Memphis Restaurant Association (MRA) at their annual awards banquet, joining a select group of Mid-South restaurateurs who have been recognized for going above and beyond in the food service industry.

"I am shocked and honored," said Neely. "There is nothing better than being recognized by your peers."  And he got a little national attention down in Miami.

Al Roker, NBC "Today Show" and Food Network personality and longtime fan of Neely's Bar-B-Que, invited Neely to be a featured celebrity chef at the 2007 Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Neely was featured at the Moet & Chandon BubbleQ event alongside renowned chefs such as Tom Colicchio and Laurent Tourondel of popular New York restaurants.

"A highlight of the weekend was watching Martha Stewart eat our ribs and exclaim they were the best she had ever eaten," Neely said.

Neely's Bar-B-Que has come a long way since it first opened in a tiny building on Madison in 1988. Today Neely and his three brothers own and operate a barbecue empire with three restaurants in Memphis and Nashville, a catering business, outlets in both FedExForum and Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center, and a line of sauces and seasonings sold in local markets and on the Internet.

Neely, 42, is also community-minded, at least in part due to good advice he received from fellow restaurateur Thomas Boggs (who also was honored at this year's MRA awards).

"He told me that the success of a business is due to the community supporting you. As a business owner, you have an obligation to show the community your appreciation and give back with your time, money and support," Neely said.

"I had a lot of people who closed the door on me when I went looking for advice back when we first started," Neely said. "I am determined to never do that to anyone. I want to be known for not only running a successful business but also giving back."

Neely is chairman of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau Board and a member of the board of directors of the Memphis Regional Chamber. He's also served on the boards of The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, The Memphis Restaurant Association and The Food Bank.

"Patrick truly deserves this award," said Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Patrick works tirelessly to be the best restaurateur he can be as well as uses his world-famous barbecue to promote the city of Memphis."

In addition to his board positions, Neely also gives back to his community in philanthropic ways.

"Ever since the Grizzlies came to Memphis, Patrick has bought 30 tickets for every home game to give to children that otherwise would never have attended an NBA game," said his wife, Gina Neely.

After 19 years of hard work, Neely, a man who says all he ever wanted to do "was cook and run a good business," is now getting his reward.

He's got a fan and big supporter in Food Network personality Paula Deen, who has featured Neely on her show.

When she was in town for the Mid-South Fair last year, Deen said spending the afternoon eating barbecue with "the Neely boys" was the highlight of her trip.

Deen's sons, Jamie and Bobby, first discovered Neely's Bar-B-Que when filming their Food Network show "Road Tasted" in Nashville last summer. Since then Neely and his wife have attracted the attention not just of Deen, but also her producers and the Food Network; it's a relationship that could make his face a familiar one on the popular television station.

"The goal right now is to film regularly with Paula and to develop a concept for a potential show," Neely said.

"I still have to pinch myself that all this is happening."

Neely's Bar-B-Que Pork Spare Ribs
1 slab pork spare ribs (about 4 lbs.)
4 oz. bottle Neely's Bar-B-Que seasoning
1 bottle Neely's Bar-B-Que sauce

Place pork rib slab flat on a clean chopping board. Pull off membrane. Cut off the excess fat and meat. Season both sides of the slab with Neely's Bar-B-Que seasoning and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat your grill to 250 degrees, using hickory and charcoal. Place the slab on the grill away from the flame (using indirect heat). Cook the slab for approximately 21/2 hours with the curled side up. Flip the slab over to finish cooking for approximately 1 hour or until you get full "bend" in the slab.

For dry ribs: Pull ribs off grill, sprinkle Neely's Bar-B-Que seasoning over entire slab. Cut bones and serve.

For wet ribs: Pull ribs off grill, pour Neely's Bar-B-Que sauce over slab. Cut bones and serve.

Source: Neely's Bar-B-Que

Neely's Bar-B-Que Spaghetti
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp. garlic salt
2 bottles (16 oz.) Neely's Bar-B-Que sauce
2 lbs. pork, beef or chicken, cooked and chopped into pieces
2 lbs. cooked spaghetti

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add peppers, onion, and garlic salt. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently for 3 to 4 minutes. Add Neely's Bar-B-Que sauce, bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add the meat of your choice (pork, beef or chicken) into the sauce. Let it continue to simmer. Cook at a very low temperature for 30 minutes. Pour sauce over noodles. Mix thoroughly and serve. Serves 8 to 10.

Source: Neely's Bar-B-Que

Paula Deen's Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding
1 12-oz. box vanilla wafers
1/3 cup unsifted cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter, cut up
4 perfectly ripe bananas
1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Line the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9 inch glass casserole with about half of the vanilla wafers.

Mix the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly add the milk and cook over simmering water until the mixture is thick, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly.

Beat the eggs in a small heatproof glass dish and add about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the eggs. Stir, then add the eggs to the double boiler. Cook for 1 minute more. (The custard should be about the consistency of mayonnaise. If it is not, keep stirring over simmering water until it thickens.) Add the vanilla and butter and stir until combined. Turn off the heat, transfer the custard to a bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent a skin from forming, and allow the pudding to cool to room temperature.

Slice a generous layer of bananas over the vanilla wafers. Cover with about half the pudding. Repeat the layers -- vanilla wafers, bananas and pudding. Top with a thick layer of whipped cream. Serve at room temperature, or cover with plastic wrap and chill. Serves 10 to 12.

Source: "Paula Deen Celebrates!" by Paula Deen

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