The Chef Files: Richard Bruce, Top Palmer, Pigman’s BBQ

By on February 17, 2019

Top Palmer, left, and Richard Bruce.

By Daniel Lewis

President, Outer Banks Restaurant Association

Richard Bruce, Top Palmer

Owners, Pigman’s BBQ
Ages: 40/40
Hometowns: Richard, Harrisonburg, Va.; Top, Suffolk, Va.
Years in OBX: 18, give or take
Training: Virginia Military Institute (non-culinary)
Style or specialty:BBQ

How did you guys get into the food biz?

Richard: I grew up in an Italian family on a farm; lots of hard work on the farm, lots of hard work in the kitchen. I liked the kitchen better. Top and I went VMI together. I joined him for the summer after graduation to drink beer and chase girls (we were a lot better at drinking beer!).  Always loved food and joined him at Pigman’s.

Top: Been coming to the Outer Banks forever. Got a summer job at Pigman’s in Duck the summer out of VMI. I loved it, learned the business, and the opportunity came to take it over from original owners of 35 years.

Any defining moments?

Top: My brother had rented a place here for a year, but needed someone to take on the lease through the Summer. I did, took the job at Pigman’s, and never left.

Richard: I think our first year taking over was most significant. It was not during the best time. But of all foods, BBQ seemed recession-proof. BBQ is like family — you don’t give it up even in tough times. We knew once we got through that first year, we could do this. When you don’t have much to lose, it’s not a big deal.

Let’s get right to the BIG question: Eastern or Western (BBQ)?

Richard: I like all kinds. We feature both Eastern, Western, Brisket, even turkey. Our house specialty is the local tuna BBQ.

Top: I grew up with the tomato-based BBQ, then coming here and having the vinegar-based sauce seemed strange. But now I’d have to say I like it (Eastern) a bit more.

What about the sides. Wwhat’s your favorite?

Richard: Mac and cheese, baked beans and slaw.

Top: I’m a french fry/hushpuppy guy. Slaw, too!

What about music What kind suits you here at Pigman’s?

Both: We’re classic rock fans, that’s what we play here.

Any guilty pleasures foods that you might not want anyone to know about?

Richard: The Baconator (occasionally), ice cream… think I have three pints of gelato in the fridge at home.

Top: Maybe not guilty, but sunflower seeds. I eat them all the time. Love ‘em. Can’t stop eating them until I finish the whole bag!

When you’re not working, where can we likely find you?

Richard: The gym, working out, swimming — work off that gelato.

Top: Gym as well. Love sports. And I just started volunteering at the Aquarium — really like it!;

Favorite OBX restaurant or hangout.

Richard: Love the Outer Banks Brewing Station.

Top: JK’s especially for Burger Night!

Top three people living or dead that you would like to dine with and why.

Richard: Prince -two words, Purple Rain. Rudy Rudiger — such an inspiration story! Still pondering the third.

Top: John Candy — just seemed like so much fun; Billy Joel — my favorite musician; Babe Ruth — he seemed like such a colorful character, someone you’d just want to sit and have a beer with. And I love baseball.  He probably likes to eat the way I do too!

What’s on your bucket list for a foodie destination?

Richard: Blue Smoke in New York; Danny Meyer’s ,great BBQ and blues joint!

Top: Thailand … I hear such great things, try things I’ve never had, like Scorpion and other wild stuff that you’d never see.

You guys are both known for your generosity. What’s your favorite way to give back to the community?

Top: I love doing all the food tasting events where we can share our food and raise money for a good cause.

Richard: You know I’m kinda partial to the Beach Food Pantry (Richard is chairman of BFP Board), but yeah, we love the tasting events and anything we can do to help the community.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


Sussex Development is soliciting bids to turnkey supply and install FF&E for the new Tulls Creek Elementary School, 125 Campus Drive, Moyock, NC27929. This project is a new ground-up 2-story, Pre-K thru 5th grade school, approximately 118,000 square feet. Bid documents may be obtained through Christopher West Interiors LLC. Request bid documents via email to Pre-Bid RFIs will be accepted via email until Wednesday, July 31, 2024 at 5:00PM EST. Pricing proposals are due Wednesday, August 14, 2024 by 5:00PM EST. All bids and inquires to be sent to Certified NC Hub, MBE, WBE, DBE, SBE are highly encouraged to participate. Sussex Development is an EOE and maintains a drug-free workplace.


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