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VIProfile: Brian Leigh

Story by Emily Robertson

Brian Leigh grew up running around big parties in his hometown of Newbury, Ohio, where you could always find a spit with some kind of animal cooking. Leigh’s uncles and father loved to hunt and they cooked whatever game they brought home to share with others. Their parties were known throughout the community and it sparked something in Leigh that would lead to his career and passion later in life.

“I used to work in the tech industry and I’d bring in smoked meats for my coworkers every Monday,” Leigh says. “My original sauces and spice blends were birthed from that. I love to play with flavors, combining the familiar and unfamiliar into something that people just have to love. We’ve taken our company, B.T. Leigh’s from a small hobby made at the SoKY Marketplace to a nationally recognized brand and bbq staple.” Not only has their company grown, with their products in stores in 34 states, as well as the United Kingdom and Honduras, but Leigh has won 33 international awards and has been honored by some of the highest culinary organizations in the industry. And now, B.T Leigh’s is getting to shine in the television spotlight as Leigh competes on PBS’ The Great American Recipe, Season 1.

“Being a contestant on The Great American Recipe was a huge accomplishment, especially since they came to me,” Leigh says. “It was an amazing experience that fostered a phethora of fantastic relationships—definitely forging friendships for life.” Brian and his wife, Jenny Mann, spend much of their time running B.T Leigh’s Sauces and Rubs and growing the business as they work on recipe development, product creation and retail shows. The couple also owns a design agency, Mann Made Creative, which takes clients alongside running the social and e commerce platforms for B.T. Leigh’s.

“Jenny supports me in all these crazy endeavors,” Leigh says. “She allows me to be the idea guy and then helps me plan the steps to execute whatever idea I’ve come up with. She is the ultimate helper and will bend over backwards to make sure whatever gets done. She doesn’t get enough credit for being such an awesome helper, but without her, I’d just be hustling barbecue sauce out of my kitchen and not on store shelves all over the place.”

Leigh met Mann, who grew up in Bowling Green, when she was working in Cleveland, Ohio. After marrying in a surprise wedding that was disguised as a barbecue get together, the couple eventually moved to be closer to Mann’s family, but Leigh loves his new hometown in Kentucky.

“Growing up in Newbury, it was one of those towns where everyone’s family knew each other’s family going back a generation. It was very rural, but wanted to be a suburb,” Leigh says. “In Bowling Green it is almost the exact opposite. It is a bustling city that wants to be a little rural. I feel that connection between my old hometown and my new hometown.”

When they aren’t working on one of their businesses, the couple spends time exploring life, checking out new cuisines and experiences and spending time with their Boston Terriers, Pickles and Olive. Leigh loves board games and tabletop role-playing games and is a science fiction and fantasy buff.

“I’m a huge nerd,” Leigh says. “I read The Hobbit in fourth grade and I was instantly hooked on fantasy and science fiction. I’ve been playing tabletop role-playing games since I was 12 years old and every Monday night I run a virtual table top role-playing game with my friends across the country.”

Leigh would say his biggest influences in his life, aside from his wife, are his mother and father. “My mom is a big influence because she was always there for people, even if she didn’t have it in her to be. She gave so much of herself and asked for so little in return. She raised me as a single mom and I couldn’t ask for a better mom,” Leigh says. “My father influenced me because he was a legendary pitmaster who would throw parties that lasted for days. He’d show up at peoples’ houses at 6 a.m. with a live chicken and a case of beer and he would make them breakfast and roast the chicken for lunch.”

Ultimately, it is that spirit of community that makes Leigh thankful for the growth he and Mann have seen in their businesses because he loves what food does for families, friends and whole communities. “I love that I bring joy to people through food and I equally love that I’ve changed some people’s opinions on mustard, one spoonful at a time,” Leigh says. “I love that I can push some people out of their comfort zone and help them experience different aspects of the world through my products.”

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