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Redwood Bark

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From roots to recipes: Celebrating Black-owned Forrest Fire BBQ

“[Black History Month is] a great representation of the country [and] the contributions that Black Americans have provided, which I think is a great thing,” junior Mia Johnson, a founding member of the Black student union said.

However, we shouldn’t just celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of African American citizens during Black History Month; they should be celebrated year-round. 

“Every day is Black history, but because we have celebrated this month, [it] is [important] to really acknowledge some of the contributions that African Americans have made to this country,” Forrest Murray Jr, a Black business owner in Marin said.

Red apron on, chef Forrest Murray Jr. is ready to whip up some magic in the kitchen (Photo courtesy of Forrest Murray Jr.)

“I get to be able to cook, to share with [the community] my style of cooking and my unique food, ethnic food that culturally, people typically wouldn’t get a chance to break bread in that way,” Murray Jr. said. 

Being raised in Alabama, Murray Jr. brought his parents’ recipes to Marin to honor them through feeding customers at Forrest Fire BBQ. 

“My food business was inspired by my mother and father. On Sundays after church, we would have dinner and we often always had guests—from the church or from the community— who would stop by our house and eat. They knew on Sunday afternoon that the Murray family would be having a feast. There was a lot of good soul food,” Murray Jr. said. 

Murray Jr. painted a vivid picture of post-church feasts that brought together his family, friends and members of the community. Recalling the abundance of soulful dishes that graced their family table, Murray Jr. described how their home became a hub of hospitality, welcoming everyone. He emphasized the profound influence of his father’s cooking style, centered around a simple yet indispensable tool: the cast iron skillet. 

“[I] honor him and his style of cooking and he used a cast iron skillet. That was his main tool in the kitchen and a lot of people, when they see that, they appreciate that because they can relate [to it] in the past and in the present,” Murray Jr. said.

Murray Jr. remarked with admiration for his father and the cooking that resonates with sentimental memories. His culinary journey has not just been about crafting delicious dishes for Marin County citizens to enjoy but also about honoring his family heritage and traditions. 

Forrest Fire BBQ, which became Murray Jr.’s full-time job in 2019, currently only does events, pop-ups and private catering. 

“I’ve been fortunate with a lot of opportunities, and challenges from my experience, [in the] pursuit of business happiness, and you [have] to be able to face those challenges,” Murray Jr. said. 

Murray Jr. maintains a sense of resilience, expressing gratitude for the survival of his business through the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Navigating the complexities of running a small business in the midst of a global pandemic presented unforeseen challenges for Murray Jr., yet Forrest Fire BBQ was able to pull through. 

Forrest Fire BBQ’s delicious ribs, ready to be eaten by Murray Jr.’s customers (Photo courtesy of Murray Jr.)

As he looks ahead and sets goals for the future, Murray Jr. is eager to grow and develop his locally-owned business. 

“My goal is to get my food trailer [running]. I have a food trailer now, so my next project in the next four months is to get that equipment and have a [fully functioning] food truck,” Murray Jr. said. “It will take me to another level as far as sharing [the food] with the public 24/7. [I won’t] have [to have] a middle person, [or be] waiting for an event or [a] private catering [job]. I’ll be out there selling directly to the public within six months, that’s my goal to take it to another level like that and then to share it with the entire Bay Area.”

Forrest Murray Jr.’s story is not just one of culinary excellence, but one of resilience, community and cultural pride. As we just wrapped up Black History Month and celebrated and reflected on the contributions African Americans have made to our country, Murray Jr.’s journey shows the impact of perseverance and passion. His dedication to honoring his family’s traditions, preserving his cultural heritage, and giving back to the community embodies the spirit of resilience and unity that lies at the heart of Black history.

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About the Contributor
Evelyn Given
Evelyn Given is a Junior reporter for Advanced Journalism. Evelyn enjoys music, going to concerts and music festivals, watching the sunset, and going to the beach.