As co-owners of Neely’s Bar-B-Que, Patrick (Pat) and Gina Neely (http://www.ginaandpat.com/) have turned their family restaurant into one of the most successful barbecue restaurants in the South. Now they share the secrets behind their favorite dishes and their passion for food, family and fun on Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys.
After its February 2008 premiere, Down Home with the Neelys became the highest-rated series debut in the five-year history of Food Network's "In the Kitchen" weekend block and continues to be a top ratings performer. Filmed in their Memphis home surrounded by family and friends, the show airs multiple times throughout the week on Food Network. In May 2009, the Neelys released their first cookbook, Down Home with the Neelys (Knopf, 2009), which quickly earned a place on the New York Times best-seller list. Their second book, The Neelys Celebration Cookbook: Down Home Meals for Every Occasion (Knopf), is due out in November 2011. The couple will open their first New York City restaurant in May 2011, Neelys BBQ Parlor (http://www.neelysbbqparlor.com/).
Patrick began working in the restaurant business at the age of 15, learning the art of barbecue from his uncle Jim Neely, who taught Patrick and his brother Tony the methods of slow cooking Southern barbecue using indirect heat. In February 1988, Pat and his three brothers (Gaelin, Tony and Mark) opened their first restaurant in downtown Memphis with just a few tables and chairs, one barbecue pit and $20,000 borrowed from their grandmother. Building on a reputation of hard work, great food and consistently good service, the Neelys now have two locations in Memphis and one in Nashville. Additionally, they operate several concessions in the Memphis FedEx Forum and their products are sold online and in grocery stores nationwide. Neely’s Bar-B-Que was awarded the 2007 Business of the Year by Memphis MED-Week (Minority Enterprise Development) and a Blue Ribbon Small Business by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
High school sweethearts in the 80s, Pat and Gina reunited at their 10-year high school reunion and were married in 1994. For years the two have learned to balance their roles in the family as well as in business. They reside in Memphis with their two daughters, Spenser and Shelbi.
Gina manages the catering division of Neely’s Bar-B-Que, which has expanded to more than 25 percent of the restaurant’s total sales. She also oversees sales of all Neely’s products, including sauces, seasonings, shirts, hats and aprons. Before joining her husband in the family business, Gina served as branch manager at National Bank of Commerce in Memphis and was an events coordinator for The Carter Malone Group, a local public relations firm.
Patrick is a board member of the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Shelby Farms Conservancy Board and the immediate past chairman of board for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 2007, Patrick was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Memphis Restaurant Association.
Gina is a member of the Memphis Restaurant Association, on the steering committee for The Women’s Empowerment Summit for the Memphis Housing Authority and on the PTSA of Cordova High School. She is also a member of The Dreamers Club for the National Civil Rights Museum and an active member at Cummings Street Missionary Baptist Church where she serves in the Hospitality and Greeters ministries.
Gina and Patrick support Memphis youth by sponsoring 25 children to attend NBA Memphis Grizzlies home games. They are longtime supporters of Melrose High School, Central High School athletics and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Basketball Tournament.
The Neelys also hosted a second Food Network show in July 2008, Road Tasted with the Neelys, a cross-country search for specialty stores and family-run businesses that make hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind edibles. They have appeared on Food Network’s Paula’s Home Cooking; Paula’s Party; Road Tasted, hosted by Jamie and Bobby Deen; BBQ with Bobby Flay; and several Food Network holiday specials.