All in the Family: A Q&A With Alonzo Fielding, Owner of Fielding Brothers BBQ Shack
In two weeks, a new barbecue joint will open in the heart of Augusta, one that’s been in the making for generations and even has ties to what some consider the best barbecue joint in the city: Sconyers Bar-B-Que. Alonzo Fielding’s great uncle mastered the family craft over decades, spending a number of those years in the barbecue pit at Sconyers. With that inspiration, Fielding is now opening a restaurant of his own.
But the tradition of barbecue in Fielding’s family doesn’t stop there; his mother’s side of the family was equally as rooted in a longstanding barbecue tradition that began in New York and will continue in a new barbecue shop in the Armstrong Galleria off Laney-Walker Boulevard. In the midst of putting the final touches on the restaurant in preparation for a 4th of July weekend opening, Fielding opened up about the significance of barbecue in the Fielding family when he was growing up, his perseverance through family loss and what the new restaurant means not only for his family but for the local community.
Tell me about your background and what inspired you to open the restaurant.
It was a dream for me. When I was small, everybody in the family knew how to cook. So it was tradition on both sides. My mom, her mom and her grandad all cooked. They were barbecue chefs up in Long Island, New York. On my dad’s side, my great uncle cooked too. He taught my dad how to cook, and my dad taught us how to cook. We can’t help but get it from both sides. It’s traditional for us, and it’s a lot of history behind it.
As I got older, me and my brother, we took it upon ourselves. We started doing it on our own. We were going out, cooking at people’s cookouts, high school homecomings, birthday parties and stuff like that. Then we got a food truck. And then business got so big, we got a restaurant. We started working on it, took our time, and here it is.
What were some of your most vivid memories cooking growing up?
The all-nighters. My dad would have a whole hog on the pit. We’re cooking all night, because it’s taking long hours. We’d say, “We’re going to bed.” He said, “No man, this is all night here.” We’re cooking all night, cooking all morning. That was the fun in it, because we were able to be with our dad while we were doing it. So we’re getting all his wisdom, and all his training, and all the different little stuff we like to do. We were getting that while we were small, all the way up.
What were some things you learned from your dad?
We learned how to be good to people. Treat people right, and also serve people good food. He would always say, “If it ain’t good, it ain’t right.” So make sure it’s good. He always said, “Always give the best at what you’re doing. Always give people a big smile and show them your personality and what we raised you to be: good people.” So that’s why it’s so traditional, and it’s history for us.
What’s it been like for your dad to be a part of you doing this?
A lot of smiles. A lot of “I’m proud of y’all. Here it is. Y’all took the time and learned the craft, so here it is. Run with it.” He basically comes in here every day, and he sits around and looks like, “Man, y’all just don’t know how proud I am of y’all.”
Did you have siblings growing up making BBQ with your dad?
I actually was an identical twin. It was me, my identical twin, and my other brother. My twin brother ended up passing away to acute leukemia. I was able to give a transplant. My dad was the last one to hold his hand before he passed away. We was really tight. I saved his life for a year. For a whole year, he was good. And then it spread. That was fourteen years ago. We were 27 at the time.
How do you see this restaurant as part of the local community?
I know there’s a lot of efforts to continue building up this side of town. I think it’ll be a big help. You have a lot of people around here that don’t have cars. A lot of older people. They’re able to not go so far to get food. And also, if people need jobs, they can also come get a job.
What are your specialties, and what do you want to bring with the variety of dishes?
We do hash and rice, we do smoked wings, we do ribs. We do chopped BBQ and chopped chicken. We do sides: mac and cheese, baked beans, different ones that people love to have, especially with barbecue. And we also got a homemade lemonade, and they love it.
Is the menu inspired by what you were making with your dad growing up?
Yes. He taught us the ribs, hash and rice, the smoked wings. Pretty much all of it. Even when we were real small he taught us how to build a fire in the barbecue pit. So he’d be like “Okay, if y’all go down and build a fire, then I’ll be there when it cools down to put the meat on.” So it went from picking up charcoal and wood to building the fire, having it prepped and ready. So when he came to cook, he was ready.
Is this something you always knew you wanted to do, or did you try something else and then decide, “I’m really gonna go for the barbecue thing?”
I worked at (Dart Container Corporation) for years. My passion was cooking, and then helping my mom cook and my dad cook. That’s all I loved to do was cook with them. We would listen to music, old school music, and then we’ll cook. And then once we’re done, we relax. That was just my passion…me, my brothers and the whole family.
What are you looking forward to most about opening a restaurant?
I’m looking forward to all the faces and all the people that are going to come and grab some barbecue after work or lunchtime or the weekend. A lot of people come get barbecue and they come home and spend time with their family like we did. We’re ready to bring it to the community. Great food, great people.
Never give up on dreams. As long as you work hard, you have faith in what you’re doing, and you believe in yourself, dreams are going to come true. Everybody’s got dreams. Even if it’s something different, people don’t need to give up on their dreams.