Old Crow Smokehouse
Tony Scruggs developed an interest in cooking at an early age, helping his Sicilian-born grandmother in the kitchen, and spending his summers steaming crabs at a crab house and marina in Maryland as a teen. Scruggs’s career as a steel hauler/truck driver furthered his interest in food, in particular barbecue, as his territory was in the barbecue-loving states of Tennessee and Arkansas. While driving, he regularly ate at barbecue shacks, and he began perfecting his own style of ‘cue back home in Illinois. He entered his smoked meats in county and state competitions, racking up numerous awards and honors.
His daughter convinced him to take his competitive spirit to the next level and encouraged him to audition for the Fox Network’s “MasterChef.” His stellar audition landed him a spot as a contestant on season two in 2011, giving him national recognition and celebrity-status throughout Kankakee County. Prior to helming the pit at Old Crow Smokehouse in 2013, Scruggs was operating a barbecue catering business in Kankakee.
Scruggs describes his barbecue as “Chicago-style,” and cites influences from Tennessee and Arkansas. He has a passion for locally-produced products, with livestock and a large garden at his Grant Park home, and he has built relationships with farmers, butchers and other purveyors in Kankakee County over the years.
At Old Crow Smokehouse, Scruggs prepares the smoked meats in a wood-burning Southern Pride 1000. He believes that the wood used in the smoker is just as important as the spices used on the meats; both impart a distinct flavor. He uses his own secret blend of applewood and other fruit woods in the smoker, and also uses his signature “Scruggs Rubs” throughout the menu from the barbecue sauce to the seasoning on the hand-cut fries.