Now 36, Furman runs arguably one of the best barbecue joints in the state of Georgia. His pitmaster ambitions started in 2011, when his interest in heritage breed hogs was piqued by a TV segment featuring Andrew Zimmern. Two years later, Furman took the plunge and purchased 13 hogs, which quickly multiplied to 70, including heritage breeds like Chester White, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Berkshire Duroc, and Large Black. He started roasting them for friends and catering events; business eventually took off enough that he left his construction job and opened B’s Cracklin’ with his wife, Nikki, in Savannah in 2014 (it expanded to a second Atlanta location last year).
Initially, Furman’s locally-raised pork was a tough sell. Farm-to-table sensibilities hadn’t yet caught on in Savannah, and most diners balked at their premium prices. The barbecue norm was a rack of rubbery ribs cooked using set-it-and-forget it-style gas smokers, not the type of ’cue that makes the pages of Southern Living magazine. But before the media accolades, what won the town over was some good, old-fashioned salesmanship.
“Savannah hadn’t caught up yet. When people saw the prices, they’d say, ‘Hold up,’” Furman says. His plates cost $13 to $18, a far cry from the typical $5 racks. “We used to give out free samples. We had to let people see what they were getting.”