After graduating, former U football player Marcus Jones BS’04 was struggling to find a place to play professionally. He got a job working at a restaurant in Salt Lake called the SkyBox and saw an opportunity. “I told the chef and owner that their barbecue wasn’t very good, and that I could do it better,” says Jones. He and his dad began barbecuing on weekends for the eatery.
The pair eventually launched Miss Essie’s BBQ in Murray, Utah, and now provide catering, curbside pickup, and online sauce orders. “The business was inspired by my grandma—Miss Essie. She taught us that food can bring people together,” remarks Jones.
With the help of Jones’s business partner and friend since high school, Deonn Henderson, the company is expanding, and their sauces are now available in nearly 400 retail locations including Kroger, Whole Foods, and Harmons. Henderson is also leading the charge on vegetable-based barbecue while Jones focuses on the meat. “I try to take soul food that I grew up on, add to it, and share it with others,” Jones notes.
1. Master the heat. Preheat your grill, monitor your temperatures, and learn where cold and hot spots are.
2. Don’t be afraid of fire. When a little flame hits just right it can add a whole new layer of flavor.
3. Get used to making mistakes. Sometimes your food will burn, or it won’t taste good. That’s OK. Keep at it.
4. Begin with the basics. Start with salt and pepper to understand the natural flavors of meats.
Miss Essie’s BBQ Jackfruit Pizza
Here’s a recipe from Miss Essie’s BBQ anyone can enjoy—whether you grill or not. This savory vegetarian pizza gives a pulled pork-style taste to green jackfruit and can be cooked in an oven or on a grill.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 20 oz can green jackfruit, drained
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- Pizza dough
- 3/4 cup Miss Essie’s Original BBQ Sauce
- 1/2 cup or more mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Sliced red onions to taste
- Sliced pickled jalapeños to taste
Preheat the oven or grill to 425°F.
Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan.
Add onion and cook until semi-translucent.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the jackfruit, liquid smoke, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and salt. Stir until well mixed. Add the vegetable broth, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Smash the jackfruit with a spatula until it’s broken apart and stringy, then spread it in an even layer at the bottom of the cast iron pan.
Transfer the cast iron pan to oven or grill and bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.
Stretch the pizza dough and lay it on parchment paper or a pizza stone.
Remove the jackfruit from the oven or grill, add 1/4 cup of the BBQ sauce to it and stir until well coated.
Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce over the pizza dough in a thin layer, add mozzarella cheese, and then top with the jackfruit, red onion, and pickled jalapeños.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Slice, serve and enjoy!