By Jonathan McElvy / EditorPublisher

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2004

Whether it was the story announcing the grand opening of Jacky Poole’s new restaurant or the symbolic cutting of the ribbon with local “celebrities” gathered around, the only barbecue restaurant in Demopolis has received plenty of attention.

Then again, there’s always room for a little more “free advertising,” especially when real celebrities take an interest in your restaurant.

Today, crews from the Food Network will follow Poole — owner of Smokin’ Jacks — from dusk until dawn, filming the entrepreneur through his daily routine. The filming will air as part of famed weatherman Al Roker’s weekly show “Roker on the Road.”

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“About all I know is that the Food Network called and said they were going to do a piece on me and the restaurant,” Poole said Thursday.

Beginning at 8:45 a.m., production crews will capture every move Poole makes during the day.

“They said they’re going to follow me leaving the house, saying good-bye to the kids, coming to the restaurant, everything,” Poole said.

Attempts to reach producers at the Food Network were unsuccessful Thursday.

A publicity piece for Roker’s cooking show describes “Roker on the Road” as an interesting glimpse into the world of food. Among the many features have been clips of a Web site founder who reviews potato chips for the public, members of a men’s-only gourmet cooking club, and a Russian immigrant who serves gourmet meals at a hockey rink snack stand.

According to Poole and Chamber of Commerce Director Jay Shows, the Food Network’s feature of Poole will spotlight a young entrepreneur who has found a niche with barbecue.

“[The Food Network] called about a month-and-a-half ago and said they wanted to do a show on barbecue,” Shows said. “They wanted young people and they asked if we had any restaurants like that in Demopolis.”

While a piece of the day-in-the-life of Jacky Poole will be the feature of the Roker show, Demopolis also has another chance to shine on a national stage.

Film crews will be at Smokin’ Jacks all day Friday and will feature local citizens who dine at the restaurant during lunch and dinner.

“[Wednesday night] I cooked 26 slabs of ribs, and after dinner, we only had four left,” Poole said.

Asked how many he planned to cook Friday, he gave a puzzled answer.

“Geez, I don’t know.”

Along with a focus on the restaurant, Poole also said the Food Network plans to feature other events in Demopolis. Both Demopolis High’s baseball and softball teams host tournament games this afternoon, and one producer told Poole that crews would film some of the activities around the games.

Roker, once known as the loveable large weatherman for NBC’s Today Show, now comes in a much smaller size. After having gastric bypass surgery, Roker has become a national symbol for weight loss. However, that hasn’t stopped him from chasing his love of food.

Along with “Roker on the Road,” the Emmy award-winning personality has written two books about cooking: “Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue” and “Al Roker’s Hassle-Free Holiday Cookbook.”

Though no one at the Food Network could be reached for comment, most don’t believe Roker will be part of the crew visiting Demopolis.