Tink Pinkard

By Nicole Lessin
Photography by Kate LeSueur

It’s about five o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and Tink Pinkard is working in his backyard, breaking up small flames on the ground with a shovel and sipping on a can of Lone Star while Zydeco All Stars play on Pandora. “I can’t be roasting a pig without listening to good music,” he says. 

Dressed for the imminent pig-pickin’ pool party, Pinkard sports Hawaiian-print swim trunks and a heat-thwarting bandana tied around his forehead, Karate-Kid style. Thanks to a recent TV debut on Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food, where Pinkard showcased his pig-roasting wizardry, there’s an ever-increasing demand for his whole-animal cookouts, which the professional hunter, butcher and outfitter offers via his two-year-old business ROAST. In fact, this is Pinkard’s 25th such event of the year, but the first in a long time that’s just for fun. “This is one of the better pigs I’ve done because it’s our going-away party for my wife’s acceptance into law school,” he says. “I went ahead and splurged.” 

Just beyond arm’s length is the butterflied, 32-pound Berkshire-Yorkshire-cross pig that Pinkard has wedged flat inside a grill and laid over a custom-made, three-by-four-foot cinder-block clamshell construction surrounding a bed of hot coals and Pinkard’s signature blend of pecan and mesquite wood. “I have the fire super tame just because I know my friends,” he says with a laugh. “I said six, so they’ll be here at seven.”

Normally, people would pay Pinkard $1,000 or more for such an event—depending on a number of factors, including the kind of animal being roasted (he has special grills for fresh seafood, as well as a large one for veal calves), whether it comes with a full-service catering of American or Cuban-style sides or even if the meal features the talents of local chefs such as Sonya Coté. But the goal tonight is just to relax with friends and family and celebrate the accomplishment of his wife Leah, who says she’s touched by the gesture and enjoys this kind of feast. “Aside from being delicious, it’s fun,” she says. “You’re all sitting around. You can drink a beer. You can watch [the pig] as it cooks, as he’s fiddling with it. It’s more of an event than just, say, going to someone’s house and having dinner.”

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Pinkard says he has always enjoyed playing with fire, and was encouraged from a young age to learn to roast the Easter pig every year at his grandfather’s lamb farm in Oberlin, Louisiana. “My grandfather had the same setup, but his was made with real bricks, not cinder blocks,” he says. “I started using cinder blocks because the dead air that gets created inside of the blocks is a great insulator, so that’s why I call it a roast…because I’m really roasting this animal, not grilling it. It’s like putting it into an oven.”

Pinkard’s oven remains topless because he likes to see the color of the skin as it cooks. “I look for a rich, red color at the end, and I know,” he says. “I don’t even have to temp it when the red’s there.” And the dramatic effect that this open-air method offers is an added perk. “I really like to do it this way because it’s more of a spectacle,” he says. “You can see it, they can observe it, and to me that’s a connection with food that we’ve really lost.” In fact, Pinkard says one fun aspect of a pig roast is watching people’s more primitive instincts take over when it’s time to dig in. “When it’s serve time, I open the grill, leave tongs and a knife and watch people stare at it for a minute,” he says. “Then, it’s like vultures…they realize what to do.”

On this occasion, however, Pinkard does most of the cutting—shredding tender morsels of ham, shoulder and more, section by section, to be enjoyed with macaroni and cheese, cauliflower au gratin, kale salad and other tempting side dishes brought by guests—several of whom are already making a beeline for the choicest part of the animal: the cheeks. “The cheek of any animal is just a really good, sweet, tender meat,” Leah notes. “It’s kind of fatty, but it’s still muscular.”

By all accounts, the evening is a huge success, but for Pinkard, this is more than just enjoying good food and friends. It’s also about sharing the stories of the small farmers from whom he sources his meat—from Loncito Cartwright and his top-drawer pastured-pork operation in Dinero, to this evening’s pig purveyor: the owner of a casket company who raises pigs on the side. “To me, doing this connects people to that farmer in a much different way than putting a pork chop on the grill,” he explains. “[Guests] look at this and they go, Wow, that’s awesome! That pig looks great. Who raised that animal? And you knowit brings awareness to our farmers, and that, to me, is what I’m here for.”

Click here for Tink Pinkard's Goin' To Law School Roasted Pig recipe.

What We're Cooking

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