Corky's Ribs and Bar-BQ founder Don Pelts passed away Wednesday night on the eve of the 2013 Memphis In May Barbeque Contest.
According to his employees at his Poplar Avenue restaurant, he died of a massive heart attack. He was 72.
Mr. Pelts opened the first Corky's in Memphis in 1984, serving ribs and pulled pork cooked over hickory wood and charcoal. According to the company's website Corkysbbq.com, Corky's catering business started within a year of the first restaurant's opening in 1984.
Mr. Pelts began visualizing a Memphis-style BBQ restaurant in the early 1970s.
The company later expanded, with restaurants opening in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nashville and other cities in Tennessee. It also began to ship food to individual customers around the country, and to supermarket chains.
Mr. Pelts recently released a recipe book called "Cookin' With Corky's," which includes 165 recipes.
Corky's food and service has received acclaim in several national publications. National Geographic named Corky's as the best barbecue restaurant in the country earlier this year.
Another barbeque legend, John Willingham passed away also on Wednesday, the day before the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest gets underway at Tom Lee Park.
MORE: Former Shelby Co. Commissioner John Willingham passes away http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/story/22264890/former-shelby-co-commissioner-john-willingham-passes-away