Jeff “Rhino” Bannister
Photo by Andrew Haworth
Jeff “Rhino” Bannister
HOMETOWN: From Holly Hill; now lives in Greenville
JOB: In 2015, sold the process-serving company he’d owned for 21 years; currently a professional vagabond, doing short-term stints as Uber driver, line cook, dishwasher, guest chef, “anything and everything for a new experience”
CLAIM TO FAME: Founder of Bovinoche, a recurring, public, outdoor food event; visit icookwholecows.com to find upcoming events
IN THE MEDIA: Past appearances on “Fat Guys in the Woods” and “American Grilled” TV shows; “Anthony Eats America” Web series; his own YouTube channel; appearing on soon-to-air cooking competition on Destination America network
Be careful, if you’re with Jeff Bannister, about admitting you’ve never done a certain something on your bucket list. You may suddenly find yourself shooting your first pig or joining an impromptu kayak caravan to the coast.
The time to try something new, Bannister opines, is always now. He’s a fan of “microadventures,” the more spontaneous the better, and he likes an audience. That’s what led to his first Bovinoche, a food event of his own invention. Loosely translated, it means “night of the cow.”
Bannister saw a TV show about a centuries-old, South American method of cooking whole animals over an open flame. Naturally, he wanted to try it himself. He and a crew of willing cohorts constructed a monster-sized outdoor roasting rack, butterflied an 800-pound cow over the flames, and invited a few hundred friends to watch and eat roasted meat right off the carcass. Bovinoche was born.
“People are dying for something to do, something new,” Bannister says. “An adventure they don’t have to worry about dying on, but it’s an adventure that’s out of the cube they work in.”
An upbeat, what-you-see-is-what-you-get character, Bannister adopts new friends quickly and tags himself as easily distracted, occasionally profane and abundantly blessed. Bovinoche, he says, “is a direct reflection of my personality and all my flaws.”
Since his first roast in the Upstate in 2011, Bannister has hosted Bovinoche events in Greer, Simpsonville and Ridgeway, with more planned in months ahead. National media coverage of his exploits has boosted his fame, and the curious flock to see him roast whole cows, goats, llamas and bacon-wrapped alligator.
Meanwhile, he’s not minding the attention: “Nobody gets famous cooking hot dogs.”