Ocala pit master and food truck owner shows off his art on Food Network

Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 5:51 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - In the field of culinary arts, he’s an artist. His name is Rashad Jones and he’s the pit master and owner of Big Lee’s barbecue food truck in Ocala. Cooks and drivers bring his brisket and other smoked meals all over north-central Florida.

“Anything is possible.”

Jones started his food truck business on July 12, 2014, after a holiday trip in 2011 to visit his wife Patrice’s family in the Mississippi delta.

“Her uncle, Leon, cooked Thanksgiving dinner and he also cooked some barbecue as well,” Jones explained. “The Thanksgiving dinner was outrageous. It was really great, but his barbecue was over the top it was mind-blowingly good.”

Patrice convinced her husband to give bbq a shot once they returned home. Jones said he started experimenting with different cuts of meat on the backyard grill every weekend.

“The food was awful when I first started,” he said jokingly, giving a chuckle, “but I never lost the desire. I never lost interest.”

And now 10 years into this venture, he said uncle Leon’s barbecue changed everything.

He pointed to the flame in the Big Lee’s logo, when we met him at his home base in downtown Ocala and said that that flame is uncle Leon’s spirit of “hospitality, and love for food.” Once Leon died, Jones said he knew he wanted to name the business after him.

His food “left such an impression on me. It influenced me. It inspired me, and that’s what great art should do right,” he said.

Since then this non-traditional artist has been featured on the Food Network several times. His national debut began with ‘Guy’s Big Project’ in 2017. (And yes we mean Guy Fieri). The purpose of the show was to recreate what Fieri had done with ‘Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.’

Jones said out of 7,000 auditions, only 10 people were selected, which is an honor in itself, but this pit master made it all the way. He made it to the finale and won. The grand prize was a 30-minute pilot episode that would be submitted to the Food Network.

“And there were no promises made with that pilot. They never said this is going to be something that is aired,” he said, never thinking anything would come of it, but it did.

Jones ended up filming a six-epode series called ‘Eat, Sleep, BBQ’.

He’s now the latest contestant on the newest season of the Food Network’s show, BBQ Brawl, fighting for the title of ‘Master of Cue’.

“There are eight other competitors, really really fantastic people. I believe the barbecue world has some of the finest people and I’ve met some of the most amazing people on this barbecue journey I’ve been on since 2011,” Jones said.

So far four episodes have made it to air. Episode eight will show the three finalists competing in the final challenge. You can stream the show on discovery+ with new episodes every Monday.

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