Bennett Brown, III,
founder of Low Country BBQ, was our speaker.
Atlanta native Bennett A. Brown III was 11 years old when he first helped his father barbecue a whole pig for a family reunion. While staying up all night, taking turns putting wood on the fire, stoking the pit, and basting the pig with a secret family South Carolina lowcountry-style sauce, Brown began to appreciate the tradition of preparing true southern pulled pork barbecue.
After five years of helping cook pigs in their backyard for his father's various social and business functions, guests started hiring young Bennett to do the same for their parties. He soon realized there was an opportunity to expand his endeavors from just roasting pigs to providing the full meal when he escorted a debutante to a barbecue hoedown catered by a well-known and respected Atlanta restaurant. After the caterer arrived an hour and a half late and then proceeded to run out of food that was marginally edible, several guests asked Bennett why he hadn't catered the party.
The next day he phoned around to a couple barbecue restaurants to get catering prices and then went to the grocery store to check on the cost of baked beans, slaw, chips, bread, tea and eating utensils. After crunching some numbers, he realized there was a lot more money to be earned by catering the entire meal while at the same time raising the standard for barbecue served in the South. So Bennett ventured into catering. His catering clientele continued to increase over the next five years while he earned a bachelor's degree in business management from Georgia State University. He formally founded LowCountry Barbecue Inc., a full-service catering and event planning company based in Smyrna, in 1986.
Both of Bennett's parents were from South Carolina and liked to debate whether vinegar-based sauce, from his father's hometown, was best, or tomato-based, more popular in his mother's hometown. Bennett's father grew up on a 1000-acre farm near Kingstree and faced the struggle of having his father die when he was only 9 years old. They nearly lost everything, but northern bankers would come hunt on their property and Bennett's father would serve as one of their hosts. One particular banker, Mr. Percy Johnson, took an interest in the boy and promised him that if he graduated from high school, he would grant him a college scholarship. Mr. Johnson was true to his promise and provided a scholarship to Presbyterian College for Bennett's father. After graduation, Mr. Johnson gave him a job at Chemical Bank in New York City.
Bennett's father gained important experience with the Chemical Bank and when he later began with C&S Bank in Atlanta, he rose through the ranks to become CEO. Given the prominence of his position, he was not thrilled with Bennett III opening a catering business. It was not until the young Bennett gained notoriety and success that his father came around and reconciled himself to the idea.
While catering has been his mainstay, Bennett has tried and failed several times in the restaurant business, most recently affected by the lagging economy. His Johns Creek restaurant was on the way up and even had potential for franchising when the economy turned. Bennett once was struggling in business in the 1990's, but found relief through tremendous contracts related to the hosting of the Olympic games in Atlanta. Bennett has catered events from Switzerland to Oregon and has become well-known as the go-to person for an exceptional barbecue event. Through the years, Bennett Brown has enjoyed times of great success, as well as times when he faced downturns, employee embezzlement, and utter disappointments. Through it all, he claims, "By the grace of God, I am still in business."
Bennett enjoys meeting new people and making friends. He appreciates the opportunity to help others, especially children when he is able. Bennett serves on the board of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA., is a member of the Board of Visitors of Thornwell Home for Children in Clinton, S.C. and is also an Honorary Board member of Special Olympics of Georgia. He is an elder in the Carrollton Presbyterian church. He is a former board member of the Georgia State University Foundation, Oak Mountain Academy in Carrollton, GA. and the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF). Bennett is a member of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and the Off Premise Caterers Coalition. He and his company support events that directly benefit children.
Bennett and his wife Sheri have three children Jessica, Bennett IV and Alden. In his leisure time Bennett enjoys cooking, eating, entertaining and spending time outdoors fishing and hunting with his family.