Comedians and longtime friends Cedric The Entertainer and Anthony Anderson have joined forces to create their very own barbecue lifestyle brand, AC Barbeque. The pair are debuting their signature barbecue rubs as the first product launch. The rubs will be available in Walmart stores nationwide. In addition to the product launches, they documented their journey of creating and launching the brand in their new A&E series, Kings Of BBQ.
According to the official logline, “In each one-hour episode, Kings of BBQ will follow Cedric and Anthony as they meet with barbeque chefs, pitmasters and everyday experts who share their knowledge and secrets of the trade, highlighting Black Excellence in the industry along the way. From backyards to BBQ pits, the duo will go behind the scenes to master barbeque in all its glory and create a business of their own that honors its legacy and flavors. Along the way, celebrity friends and family will join in on the fun and help share how different cultures and experiences have influenced the delicious cooking technique.”
Blavity recently chatted with the two legends about their new business venture, what it means for them, and the community as a whole. They plan to take the barbecue world by storm and become the official African American staple with sauces, rubs, equipment and more.
You guys have partnered on this delicious, as you call it, finger-licking barbecue lifestyle line. What made you guys want to partner and go into business together instead of doing it solo?
AA: We are good at it. Some of our other friends have been doing it in the alcohol space and other spaces. And this opportunity presented itself because Cedric and I, we love to cook. We love to cook for our friends, we love to eat. We take extravagant golf trips. And we’re always the ones in the kitchen making this happen. And to partner with Walmart was a no-brainer for us.
CE: I think the same thing, as far as the opportunity. We’ve been friends for many, many years, many, many years. We had something that was unique, where we knew we could balance our real schedules with growing a business, but one where our synergies, our work ethic all basically lined up for something that was really natural to us. We both knew that we wanted to do big for the community and show young people that two people can work together, but also the entrepreneurial spirit of growing and developing the business. So we had the business, and then we had the opportunity of doing a TV show to chronicle how we built the business. And we thought that this was a great opportunity just for the spirit of community in general.
The launch comes at a perfect time because it’s summertime and we love barbecues. What about barbecue do you guys feel is such a staple in our community?
AA: Barbecues are the perfect medium because it’s like a family reunion every time you get together. Without it being a family reunion every few years and traveling someplace, it’s a communal thing. It’s a family thing. You get to talk trash, play dominoes, cook some good food, talk, do some travel, see friends and family that you haven’t seen in a while. And just have some libation and have fun. It’s a whole community thing.
CE: I really think the key thing for us is that we saw this as a way to build community and share our culture. The idea of grilling and cooking food goes way back in slavery and beyond. For us, as a culture, it is the way that we were. We had to get these things, as they say, from the roota to the toota, and all this stuff where we had to use everything. And so from there, we built community. But also, it’s a bit of a potluck. So this is this opportunity where if I got the meat for the grill, you got to bring the potato salad, you bring the green beans and some drinks. And so that gets everybody involved. We love the idea of that. We thought that that really represents our community.
And also, we didn’t really see somebody with a national brand in that space. That was something that Anthony brought up very early on. It was just really interesting that it was no national barbecue face. So it’s about promoting our brand, AC for sure, but we’re showing so much love to all these wonderful pitmasters and grillmasters out there, and people with other brands. We really become the ambassadors to this world of barbecue by promoting AC barbecue.
AA: My thing is, if you type in Pitbull into the search bar right now, you’re going to get the musician. You’re not going to get a pitbull terrier. When you type in barbecue for me, I want AC Barbecue to pop up and be that to this space, to this community. It’s not just about our product, but the community of barbecue and what it means. That’s our mission.
Cedric, you mentioned that there is no national barbecue brand, which is definitely true, but you guys do have some competition as far as what’s available on the online market space. Bobby Brown has his line and there are a lot of influencers and celebrities who have different seasonings and things of that nature. So what sets you guys as a line apart from what’s currently on the market?
CE: That’s something that we recognize about this world of barbecue is that there are many, many brands. There are a lot of people that are doing their own rubs. We shout out Bobby Brown, and Warren G. They are people in this space that we love, and have great respect for. And so for us, it is about the flavor profiles that we grew up with. We do plan to hit you with things that represent our family and what means something to us. We want to use our celebrity, our opportunities with the show, to just, again, promote a world of getting together, celebrating grilling — and AC Barbecue will stand out from the rest in our flavor profiles. There’s a little something for everybody.
We have wonderful flavors to lift up, where you get that first bite, you like, “All right. These boys know what they’re doing.” That’s all we want to be able to hit you with. And knowing that people have their own taste buds as well, that we’re not here to change the world. We just want you to taste what we got to offer.
There are a lot of people who have dietary restrictions and things of that sort. So do you guys feel as though your line caters to people who are more health conscious or have different dietary restrictions as well?
AA: With myself being a Type 2 diabetic, we are definitely conscious of that. In our ingredients, we use things other than sugar. We went to natural sweeteners and things like that. We’re also looking into making our options vegan and gluten-free for those who still want the flavorings to have about that barbecue lifestyle. But we want to cater to them as well, so we understand the need or the public need for and want for certain things. And we are addressing those as best we can.
CE: Yeah, we were very aware there is a lot of different dietary restrictions. We’ve come into a world where it’s just more of all these kind of like really unique individual spaces where people don’t consume gluten and they don’t do sugar. And we recognize that. And at the same time, we’re trying to make something that represents exactly who we are. But with Anthony being a diabetic — he always stands up for that community and fights for that community and donates to those causes. It is something that we knew we could not ignore and act like that wasn’t a real thing. So in doing our formulations, in talking with our food scientists, these things were considered.
In conjunction with the release of your line, there’s also your new A&E series, Kings of Barbecue. So tell us about what we’ll be seeing along the way.
AA: It’s 10 episodes. And it’s the story of our journey. It’s chronicling from the beginning to the end of our business arrangement with AC Barbecue and Walmart. You get to see us develop the best blends in these sources and these spices and these rubs. You get to see us go out and take it to the public. You get to see how we’re building the business and how we’re talking to titans of business to get information, the do’s and don’ts, the mishaps, the yeas and the nays about what we’re going through. So you get to see it unveil.
CE: Yeah, that was that was the real key and the motivation behind the show is that we thought it’d be great, of course, to have this business and this idea of being young Black entrepreneurs making a business, mov[ing] gold, getting out of our comfort zone [and] of our normal line of business — but to show you and be able to show the generations to come what it takes. And so there are shows like The Whalburgers Burgers, and shows like what Ryan Reynolds did when he bought the soccer team. … We wanted to just show you the journey of what this is. And so … not only are we doing the grocery aspect of this business, but we also going to get into the whole thing as far as major events, with the opportunity of doing ghost kitchens where we’ve got menu items that people can order on Uber Eats and Postmates. So we’re going to show you how we think about all these things, how we’re going to grow from spices and rubs and sauces to tools and grills, to outdoor patios. We will be like a real Martha Stewart scope-type of business where we will have this whole outdoor space covered with AC. We will come manicure your backyard and mow the lawn and cut trees if you need us to as well.
When you guys traveled to these different cities, did you go to the staple cities of barbecue?
AA: Well, the interesting thing about your taste for barbecue is that it all depends on where you’re from. My dad’s from Little Rock, Arkansas — even though I grew up and I was born and raised in Compton. But there’s a pilgrimage and the migration from the South to the West Coast. So you have everybody — Memphis, Texas — coming out this way. So there are different types of blends and ways to barbecue on the West Coast that a lot of people don’t think about. Cedric and I were fortunate enough to go to Memphis in May, that huge barbecue competition down there, and just to see what’s out and just, not necessarily compare our blends to other people. It was nice to see our brand stand shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone else’s.
CE: The idea is that we understand that barbecue’s very regional. People have their way in which they like it. Pork is very big in the South, where everything is about the pork shoulder and the pork butt, so … Memphis is where we went to make whole pork contests. But the brisket is huge in Texas, and one where they do it with that great bark, and I’m a big fan of crispy almost on everything. So even though I’m from St Louis, which is another big barbecue town, we did go there as well, and sauce is the king. Sauce is a unique cut — the pork steak, which is something that doesn’t really happen in any other state. So we went to a butcher shop to show you how it came into fruition and show you that the pork steak is something unique to that region, to that area. So these are the kind of things that we both learned while we’re doing this business and through the opportunity of the show and have the ability to kind of teach others. And so we plan on having a lot of fun with this meat — meeting some dynamic pit boss, this pit, and being the pitmasters who, again, need eyeballs on their skill set. They win these competitions. They got local restaurants. But on a national level, people should know them as much as they know the Bobby Flays of the world.
Memorial Day just passed, and there was a meme that went around on social media that says something about current generation sucks and that we’ve ruined what generations before us taught — because on holidays now, especially big barbecue holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Fourth of July — my generation typically goes on a vacation or we go to a restaurant or have a section at a club or something. Do you guys agree?
AA: I’m not going to say ruined. Things just evolved, and they evolved differently. But I do understand what that meme was all about. This is what Ced and I are going to be doing with AC Barbecue. We are creating something called The Grill and Chill. And with that, we’re going to go on the tour around the country and just grill and chill the old-school barbecue way. Playing Spades, Domino’s, right, all the games. But that’s what we’re trying to do, because that is kind of what is missing. Unless you still have that auntie or that uncle who is still doing it in the backyard the way we did growing up. But AC Barbeque Grill and Chill is coming to a city near you.
CE: I definitely believe in this day and age of being able to just quickly order food. We have a generation that they don’t take necessarily that accountability for that kind of fellowship of eating together, being together. Those who went to college, you still kind of got to do that because that promotes that world where everybody’s got a little bit of money. So you kind of go, you grab this, I grab that, and we make a meal as a community and a family. But now we live in a world where I could just kind of pick up my phone and order anything that I want, and it’s just definitely taking away from this ideology of celebrating through community cooking, community fellowship, being and, therefore, that’s how we all eat. We take care of each other. And so we want to be able to promote that. Let people see the music, the fun, the drinking, the celebration. This is how we keep ourselves grounded together and moving in the right direction.
And there is also a debate going on on social media. Your guys’ line is in Walmart. There’s this discussion about whether, within our community, Walmart versus Target, the type of consumers that each store attracts. So why was Walmart the better choice for you guys as a brand?
CE: Well, Walmart got us right away. It was one of the more interesting things that, when we presented this idea, Anthony’s network runs deep. He’s plugged in at some of the top levels at Walmart. From early on, they just kind of got that. It was a community idea. We both, again, have this relationship to Middle America in the sense that I came from St. Louis and we wanted to talk to these masses, and Walmart does that for us. Walking into Target, I am expecting somebody to walk up and give me a glass of Champagne. It’s just the vibe the store gives, versus the down-home feel of Walmart.