Detroit couple builds an empire cleaning 100 tons of chitlins every year

Find out how one Detroit couple is builing an empire with chitlins.

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Most Black people either can’t get enough of them or can’t get away from them fast enough, but one chitlin specialty company in Detroit says that once you get past what they are — pig’s intestines — they are really good.

The folks at the Gourmet Food Center on Detroit’s West Side say they secret is to make sure that they are cleaned thoroughly of all the waste, hair, straw, undigested food and everything else, they tell the Detroit Free Press. In fact, the store’s motto is: “We clean the s–t out of chitlins!”

“They taste good, but you know everybody’s got their own taste,” Lynn Davis, 64, told the Free Press.

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“But to me, they’re good,” Davis said. “Kids look at ’em, be like, ‘Oh no, I ain’t doin’ that,’ from the smell, you know? The smell alone. But otherwise they’re good. Yes they are.”

Company co-founder Bruce Tucker told the Free Press that the cleaning of chitterlings, as they are formally known, is exacting.

“Chitlins are hog intestines so quite naturally you have to clean the s–t out of them,” said Tucker, 67. “But after you get them cleaned down to that level there’s another level that has to happen because there’s still debris and skin, an extra inner coat that has to be cleaned like a membrane. So that’s where the hand cleaning comes in.”

Chitlins are commonly associated with Black people in America, but they actually have been a staple around the world, according to the Free Press.

The company was the idea of Tucker’s wife, Cynthia Tucker, who thought there might be money in the tedious job of cleaning out chitlins. Tucker told the Free Press he thought his wife was nuts, but now, 30 years later, they have three stores and an online business with a national reach.

“There’s no gray area with chitlins,” he said. “Either you love ’em or you hate em.”

According to the Free Press, the couple sells about 100 tons of clean chitlins each year.

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