Pulled by pork: Hartman leaves Fossett's to focus on BBQ

Fossett's head chef is trading in the grill for the pit.

Fossett’s head chef Craig Hartman has decided to leave the upscale kitchen to devote more time to his recently opened BBQ joint in Gordonsville called the Barbeque Exchange, which has become quite the culinary challenge, he says.

“Seems that I underestimated everything about my BBQ project,” says Hartman. “The upside is that I underestimated the success as well.”

So, why would a fancy food chef trade steak tartare for pulled pork? Looks like satisfying the discerning palates of BBQ lovers is no easy task.

“I think that 37 years in upscale kitchens can make you feel as if you know a few things,” says Hartman, “but what I learned is that I'm still a student of this trade, and I'm definitely humbled by this experience.”


Eaten BBQ all over the southeast for 30 years and have judged KCBS and MIM contests. Right now, Backyard BBQ is the best followed closely by BBQ Exchange.

Problem with eastern NC BBQ like Wilbur's, King's, Parker's, Bill's. etc. is they cook on gas. There is no smoke on the meat. Same thing with Skylight in Ayden. Used to wonder where the smoke was. They had a HUGE pile of wood outside and not a speck of smoke on the meat.

Ate at Lexington #1 a few days ago. Smoke was flying out of the pit chimneys and never made it to the meat. Red slaw was as wonderful as ever.

BBQ Exchange is a great place. Glad to hear Chef Hartman is doing so well with this new venture! He's a nice man.

A gentle suggestion though. While the counter staff have been wonderfully polite and congenial on every visit, the proprietress has been curt and snappish on several occasions. It spoils the experience to hear customers and employees spoken to brusquely. Please leave the customer service to the folks who are good at it-- your staff!

@ Reality Bites

Been to Wilbur's many times. After a while, sadly most eastern NC BBQ tastes alike regardless of how it's cooked. They depend too heavily on the peppery vinegar-based sauce. A lot of them do use electric cookers and stainless steel gas pits. It's too hard to find a real pit master these days. 30 years ago Parker's in Wilson was the best then Bill's came on strong. Bill's hasn't been the same since Hurricane Floyd.

great BBQ and even better sides. Pork Belly, ribs and spicy slaw with a chunk o' cornbread? Lord just take me now, cause it don't get no better

Anybody tries Pierces outside of Richmond on the way to the Outer Banks. Good Stuff!

His BBQ is the best in Central Virginia, I think. If he is committed to being a student of the Q, he probably should take a field trip to Eastern NC. Wilbur's in Goldsboro and Kings in Wilson (or is it Kinston) would be a good starting point.

Needs lemonade at his joint too

Excellent, excellent BBQ!!!

Need to add collards and black-eyed peas to the selection of sides, then we'd be in BBQ heaven.

We plan trips to that part of the state so they always include a side trip to BBQ Exch. Will be passing through there in a couple of weeks. Counting the days . . .

In case your travels take you south, there is comparable BBQ in Durham, NC at Backyard BBQ on NC Route 55 about a mile south of I-40.

Lots of 'que around, but not the quality of these two establishments.

I recommend the bbq platter....with homestyle cole slaw and the mac & cheese. Nice.

I have had bbq all over the US and this bbq is top shelf! Nice work Craig.

Kings in Kinston is the best BBQ I've ever had. Will have to try Craig's to see how it measures up.

Piece's is off 64 at the Lightfoot exit and is very good- the BBQexchange in Gordonsville is better and may be the very best new BBQ place in Virginia in a decade. It is FANTASTIC- stop whining all you foodies about the Taste of China changing chiefs and get your perfect cooked porcine lovin patootie out there now. Nice drive to boot

STSM, Backyard is that good? Is that the one in Durham, I have yet to eat there. Lexington #1 is one of my favorites, it does everything delicious, quick and clean. The Slaw and hush puppies along with the Friday only berry cobbler make it great.

Also I really love Walls in Savannah for the people and the place.
Parker's was just good but not great.

Small Town - You are dead ass wrong about Wilbur's. They absolutely do not cook over gas. You can smell and see the smoke as soon as you get out of your car in the parking lot. I doubt you have ever been there. That said, I have not been to (or heard of) this joint in Gordonsville and am excited to check it out!