Jeff Bannister ’85
By Baker Maultsby and Samantha Wagner
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2018 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
Jeff Bannister has enjoyed a good deal of success in his career: He has worked as a state patrol officer, owned a legal services company, and become something of an Upstate celebrity as a grill master. He credits his story of achievement, in large part, to Spartanburg Methodist College.
As a youngster, Bannister struggled with dyslexia. “In the 1970s no one really knew what to do with a kid that had dyslexia,” he said. “SMC was the only college that accepted me. Because of its small size and the help they gave me, I was allowed to grow and start over without being judged.
SMC looms large for Bannister for another reason: He met his future wife, Olga, at the College. “Every success I have had in life I feel started at SMC and with meeting my wife there,” he said.
Bannister is a self-taught cook who has become renowned for grilling whole animals — hogs, goats, even cows. His annual culinary event, Bovinoche, has earned regional acclaim and even drawn attention from the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, he has appeared on numerous TV programs, including the Food Network’s “Chopped: Grill Masters.”
Bannister explained, “I have always been a cooking enthusiast, as I think all real Southern men are.”
Over the years, SMC has held a special place in Bannister’s heart. He said he enjoys stopping by the campus when he’s in the area and having lunch in the cafeteria. “The food is much better now!” he declared.
But the character of the College is, in important ways, constant. “A large percentage of the students at SMC are first-generation college students,” Bannister said. “The decision to attend SMC can affect many generations of (a student’s) family for the better by opening new opportunities that would otherwise not exist.