UT alumnus named on Forbes 30 Under 30 for 2018

Emily O'Toole

Alumnus Grant Pinkerton made Forbes’ 2018 30 Under 30 list for his Houston restaurant Pinkerton’s Barbecue and credits much of his success to his liberal arts degree. But despite now having a booming barbecue business, Pinkerton’s future plan wasn’t always to own a restaurant.

“When I was in school I pretty much thought I’d come out, get into the business world, maybe working in some sort of oil and gas field,” Pinkerton said. “After thinking about things, I kind of prioritized chasing a passion.”

Pinkerton said he strives to maintain quality within his shop while sticking to the basics.

“We’re building an experience here — from the food, to the staff, to the hospitality to the building itself,” Pinkerton said. “My motto is to do the common thing uncommonly well … Do the basic thing better than
everybody else.”

Pinkerton’s style on the pit is to keep things simple and old fashioned, he said.

“No gas, no electricity, I think it’s better that way,” Pinkerton said. “If you do it the hard way, it’s gonna be the best. When you try to cut corners, inevitably the food deteriorates … I knew that the way to (make good barbecue) was to use really high quality products and to go back to cooking the real way, the old school way.”

Pinkerton said his rhetoric and writing degree from UT has been essential to his success.

“My rhetoric degree has been instrumental in getting me to where I am,” Pinkerton said. “One of the most important (advantages) that I have had over other people in the same business is my ability to wordsmith. I raised a half a million dollars in capital as a 24-year-old, not because I had a degree from a business school, but because I could write extremely well and convince people in what I was doing and in what I believed in.”

@PinkertonsBBQ on Twitter has more than 2,700 followers, which Pinkerton uses to promote his restaurant.

“We live in an era dominated by 140 characters,” Pinkerton said. “If you can use those 140 characters to reach out and make something personal to somebody, you are building your business literally one internet handshake at a time.”

Undeclared freshman Peeyal Kumar said she agreed with Pinkerton on the relevance of social media in the business world.

“The goal of any business is to try to appeal to some group of people,” Kumar said. “The minute you figure out how to convince people one way or another, that’s when you’ve succeeded. What it boils down to is just being able to talk to people.”

Davida Charney, a rhetoric and writing professor, said in an email that a liberal arts degree provides skills necessary for communication in professional spaces.

“People who I meet from the business world are always telling me how glad they are to have gotten liberal arts degrees,” Charney said in an email. “I think it comes down to learning how to weigh values, how to appreciate shades of gray, when dealing with people of all sorts who are involved in complicated situations.”

Pinkerton advised college graduates to pursue their passions.

“Try to do something that you’ve always dreamed of doing,” Pinkerton said. “If it’s fun, it’s still a job, but it’s not work.”