Gwen Fowler



"Big Daddy" a crowd favorite in Myrtle Beach

Posted 5/18/2010 11:01:00 AM
Big Daddy is a fitting name for Aaron McCargo Jr. He’s a big man with an even bigger personality.

The star of “Big Daddy’s House” was definitely one of the crowd favorites at Taste, a food show in Myrtle Beach May 14-16.

It seemed like McCargo was everywhere. He spent a lot of time wandering around the expo, meeting fans and signing autographs, and he must have visited most of the vendors. Fellow Food Network celebrity Guy Fieri called him on stage to introduce him, and he sat near the back during the demonstration by Fabio Viviani and Jacopo Felleni. He was a judge of the barbecue competition.

In person, he’s the same warm, friendly guy you see on his television show.

As the Next Food Network Star in 2008, he landed his own show. One of his latest projects is a Food Network special, “Outrageous Food.”

When someone suggests boiled peanuts might seem like an outrageous food to people in other parts of the country, he tells his boiled peanut story. He was visiting Valdosta, Ga., and had his camera stolen. A police officer who came to take the report said: “I know who you are. I know you’re Big Daddy,” McCargo said. The officer wanted to show McCargo a food he was proud of and cooked well.

“I started eating boiled peanuts with this guy.”

McCargo has cooked all his life, starting at the age of 4 using his sister’s Easy Bake Oven. He was the executive VIP catering chef at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia when his wife suggested he apply for Next Food Network Star. They filled out an application and sent in a tape. One day, she called him and said, “Are you sitting down? They want you to come to New York.”

He talks often of his family and cooking for his family. Before he came to Myrtle Beach, he did some cooking for his wife and three children. Smothered pork chops and chicken and dumplings were among the meals he left behind.

His secret for cooking success: “Do what you do well. If you make grits, make them the best grits.”