The Pit Authentic Barbecue, one of the most well-known of Empire Eats’ restaurants, celebrates the tradition of authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue that North Carolina is famous for. The restaurant has been featured in both local and national media and is a must taste destination for residents and tourists alike. In addition to a full belly, you can take home a piece of The Pit, whether it be a t-shirt or a bottle of Eastern or Western style sauce, you’ll have something to remind you of the best barbecue in North Carolina.
In honor of The Pit’s 10th anniversary, the Empire Eats marketing team wanted to produce a recipe book of seasonal dishes from The Pit’s first ten years. Current and past Pit employees suggested their favorites and the marketing director and executive chef selected the best of the best to include. The book is organized as a year-long celebration of the flavors of The Pit. Each month features recipes suited to the season, like Pork Loin with Collard Greens and Black-eyed peas to ring in the new year, barbecue chicken, potato salad, and banana pudding for the Fourth of July, and a full Thanksgiving feast in November.
The project was completed in just six weeks, with the printed books being delivered just days before The Pit’s “birthday.” With such a short turn-around time, including printing, I started on the layout design while the recipes were collected and narrowed down. I created paragraph and character styles to streamline the process, and made master page templates for single page and two-page spread layouts as some recipes were longer than others. The recipes had to be scaled down for smaller serving sizes than the restaurants normally prepare for large crowds. As recipes were completed, I replaced the placeholder text with the finalized recipes and instructions.
I searched our photo library for images of the featured dishes to see what images we had that were usable and what we’d need to have photographed. A photo shoot was scheduled to photograph the dishes. The marketing director supplied props for styling the shoot, and I sourced some Autumn leaves from the parking lot to decorate the Thanksgiving spread.
After adding the photos from the shoot and completing the page layouts, I spell-checked and proofed the book and passed it on to the marketing director to proof and get final approval before sending it to print. We self-published the book with Lulu.com, a local vendor.
The first tea towel we made is what I refer to as the “word stack” towel. I reviewed the copy on the restaurant website and menus for phrases describing the barbecue and arranged them in a stack above the pig illustration used as the restaurant’s mascot and as part of a secondary logo. We also produced a holiday version of this towel with the pig dressed as Santa Claus and holiday lights.
The second towel celebrates Raleigh, North Carolina, and features illustrations of some Empire Properties buildings, many of which house Empire Eats restaurants. I created all the illustrations except for the pig and the Chapel (top right corner). Representing the state of North Carolina are the state bird (cardinal), the state flower (dogwood), and the State Capital building, which is located in Raleigh. The airplane also represents both North Carolina and Raleigh and their aviation connections—the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk and Amelia Earhart’s christening her plane at the old Raleigh Municipal Airport and flights she took in the area. It is her plane depicted on the towel. The acorn statue and the oak leaf branch are a nod to Raleigh being called “the city of oaks.” The Sir Walter Raleigh statue honors the city’s namesake. Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University, whose bell tower is an iconic landmark. The banjo plays to the city’s bluegrass roots as the location of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual festival and The Pit’s own Cuegrass Festival, a fundraiser supporting local children’s causes.
Fun fact, the typeface for the word “Raleigh” was chosen for its similarity to the font used to spell Raleigh on the city’s police cars.
To complement the Eastern and Western style sauces that The Pit sells, a trio of spice rubs to season pork, chicken, and beef was added to the product line. I used the existing sauce label design as the basis for the spice labels. I added a dotted line starburst behind the animal illustration at the center of the design to represent the sprinkling of flavor the seasoning adds to recipes. The pig illustration used on the pork rub, was an existing brand element and I found a stock illustration of a cow, that was rendered in a similar style as the pig, to use for the brisket seasoning. I could not find a stock illustration of a chicken that was suitable, so I illustrated the chicken myself.