You must have spent a lot of time in the shop as a child, sort of behind the scenes. When did you learn how to cook?
Yeah, I’ve worked there my whole life pretty much, even if it was just cleaning up. My grandmother showed me how to make the coleslaw and sauce a long time ago. My mom always tells people that my sister and I got it naturally from my father and grandmother. She feels like it was something she had to learn when she was left with the shop after my dad passed away. But she’s taught us what she could, everything really.
Chopped pork is Payne’s biggest seller. What is it about how you prepare the meat that makes it stand out?
We use pork shoulder and cook it slow and low over charcoal for a whole day, so it’s tender and has a good, smoky taste. The smokier, the better. We don’t put any seasoning on it. Pork is a wonderful thing. It has its own flavor. You don’t have to do much to it.
Payne’s is a restaurant that feels like a step back in time. Do you think that’s part of its appeal?
Definitely. We like to keep it mom-and-pop old school, and we think the ambience gives Payne’s a little extra flavor. We really try to focus on the product, not so much on what the building looks like.
Payne’s gets a lot of attention from the national and local press. Do celebrities ever visit?
The biggest person was Magic Johnson. That was around 2010. We all got to meet him. That was fun. If we had other celebrities, we didn’t know they were here.