He owns two restaurants (with another on the way) and has trained in top-tier fine dining restaurants. But when it comes to his biggest influences as a chef, Jake Wood reaches back to his roots. The owner of Lawrence Barbecue and Lagoon Bar in Durham grew up shucking oysters, fishing, and hunting alongside his grandfather, who lived down the street. They ate what they caught, often prepared using one of his grandmother’s preserved family recipes. The dishes were rustic, made with simple ingredients readily available on the nearby land. And the meals Wood shared with his family followed him throughout his cooking career.
As Wood tried to channel familiar dishes, like stewed potatoes, at the fine dining level, it made him realize how much he wanted to cook such foods modeled upon his family’s recipes and techniques. He opened Lawrence’s Barbecue to share those recipes and traditions with not only restaurant guests but also his employees. “Everything my grandfather taught me about burning a clean fire, chopping wood, and that it’s always whole hog barbecue—there’s so much meaning going into what I’m doing on a daily basis. And being able to share that with my staff is really cool.”