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Summer 2010, Vol. 14, No. 1
Class Notes
Politics and Barbecue

Heath Hall (’97) (on right) shown with his business partner Brett Thompson. Last September, the two appeared on an episode of Shark Tank, a reality television show where entrepreneurs presented business proposals to business tycoons and tried to  convince them to invest in their business.
Political science major Heath Hall (’97) knew he was headed for law school following his undergraduate days at Truman. Well, it was either that or culinary school. But even though law school won out, Hall hasn’t let his culinary interests go to waste.

While at Truman, Hall interned for a senator on Capitol Hill and went on to attend law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. After becoming a lawyer, he returned to Washington.

The idea for Pork Barrel BBQ was hatched late one night while working on Capitol Hill. After eating pizza the few nights previous, Hall and his current business partner, Brett Thompson, were working on the Senate budget and thought that barbecue food was just what the area needed. All the while, senators were discussing pork barrel spending on the television.

“So they were talking about pork barrel spending, we were talking about food, and thought Pork Barrel BBQ; that would be a pretty good name for a barbecue company or restaurant,” Hall said. The Pork Barrel BBQ idea didn’t come up for serious consideration until a few years later when the duo decided to give it a try. Having asked friends, now known as the “Kitchen Cabinet,” to evaluate various homemade rubs, Hall and Thompson developed the master formula in summer 2008. From there, Pork Barrel BBQ sold the first bottle of rub in December 2008.

Within six months, Pork Barrel BBQ was contacted by Mark Burnett, producer of Survivor, after he discovered Pork Barrel through social media. In fact, Pork Barrel is the most followed barbecue site on Twitter. Burnett’s latest production was Shark Tank for ABC, and he invited Hall and Thompson to come on the show to vie for funding from one of five venture capitalists.

In Hall’s episode, which aired in September 2009, real-estate mogul Barbara Corcoran bought into the company and even told Hall she could see him in a pig costume. From there, Pork Barrel BBQ took off. Before the show, Hall’s product was sold in five stores in the D.C. area. Today, Pork Barrel BBQ is now on the shelves of more than 1,000 stores in 40 states.

“We’re continually growing it; we’ve got a number of things we are working on right now,” Hall said. “By the end of the year, it’s possible we could be close to being in all 50 states.”

Hall and Thompson have also competed in barbecue competitions and are working to open Pork Barrel BBQ’s first restaurant in Alexandria, Va., this summer.

As if all of this doesn’t keep the two busy, both Hall and Thompson work full-time; Hall as a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation and Thompson as a lobbyist.

Hall says that even if Pork Barrel becomes a full-time job somewhere down the road, politics will still be a part of his life. “I don’t think I would ever fully be out of [politics]. What that means exactly, I don’t know,” Hall said. “I think I would always be involved in some way."
Amanda Goeser

Truman Review magazine
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