In January, a camera crew spent nearly a week with Octavius Nelson and his wife, Sarah. They filmed the couple at their home and Fountain Inn restaurant, Bobby’s BBQ.
It was surreal, but not as surreal as seeing the fruits of that filming and the fruits of his labor come together on screen.
Last week, Nelson became YouTube famous when his video was released as part of the video sharing platform’s “United States of YouTube” series, which showcases unique small business stories from all 50 states.
“I never pictured all this happening,” Nelson said still in awe. “You can dream but to see things fall into place is amazing.”
Nelson learned how to barbecue by watching YouTube videos.
YouTube representatives actually found Nelson through an August 2018 Greenville News article that documented how he built his restaurant, said Salone Kapur, with YouTube.
“Tay Nelson first came to our attention through a story one of our teams read in The Greenville News,” Kapur said in an email. “We are so proud that YouTube was a part of his journey to create Bobby’s BBQ and we’re happy to see that his business continues to thrive and benefit the community.”
When the Nelsons were first contacted by YouTube in August 2019, they thought it was a joke.
Nelson’s story has grown with his business. Along with his wife Sarah, he has built a brand and a successful business in just under two years (Bobby’s will turn two in October). The food makes people regulars, but it is also the Nelsons, and Tay’s story that draws them in.
That story includes barely knowing anything about barbecue, learning through YouTube videos and mirroring techniques of famed Texas pit masters and then practicing until he got it perfect.
Bobby’s BBQ is the culmination of a dream, faith and family. The restaurant is named for Nelson’s father and brother, from whom Nelson learned a love for food and for cooking and for following your dream.
Though neither Bobby Sr. or Bobby Jr. is alive today, Nelson continues to take inspiration from them.
He also continues to innovate and to find ways to build up his community, one of the founding tenets of his restaurant.
Nelson is working on his own cooking videos and a series of instructional YouTube videos like the ones that helped him. But he also is working on a virtual culinary instruction program that would offer job skills to men and women who are incarcerated.
“I would say it’s God,” Nelson said of his trajectory. “First, I ran from it and then it was a hobby and then it just fell in place. When you’re really doing what you’re supposed to be doing, it makes sense.”
Bobby’s BBQ is located at 1301 N. Main St. in Fountain Inn.
Lillia Callum-Penso covers food for The Greenville News. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 864-478-5872, or on Facebook at facebook.com/lillia.callumpenso.