If you’re a fan of BBQ you are quite familiar with John Markus. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, the show he created, BBQ Pitmasters should as it’s been a strong force in bringing the BBQ world (both competitive as well as BBQ chefs from BBQ joints) to TV screens across the nation (the third season began airing on December 16th on Destination America). I appreciate anyone that champions the BBQ cause. Moreover, being an Emmy-winning sitcom writer whose credits include “Taxi,” “The Cosby Show” and HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” I was excited to see what direction his contribution would go in. I was not let down.
“I was just asked by writer Jim Shahin of The Washington Post to name my last meal. You know, as in before the last mile. That’s easy, I said. It’d be a combo plate. So, I will recreate that combo plate with dishes from my favorite BBQ restaurants. But it’s simplest to say, these smoked meats come from the most talented Pitmasters on God’s earth. So, bring on the chair, that is, if I get…
Big Bob Gibson – Decatur, AL – Chris Lilly remains the most gifted pitmaster I have ever encountered. HIs slow cooked, pulled pork shoulder remains the Mt. Everest of succulence and flavor. He’s reached that zen level of mastery with meats. He lays out the raw product on the cutting board, and these primal cuts actually speak to him. I’ve seen it. Also, the original Big Bob Gibson on 6th Ave. in Decatur, remains a cathedral of superb barbecue. Go in there at any lunch, and you’ll see all of professional Decatur sitting there, tucking into their meals, enjoying sublime ‘Q. And the gracious McLemore family represents all that is good about the South. Gracious, fun, and fantastic hosts and keepers of the flame.
Photo of Big Bob Gibson’s courtesy of Serious Eats
Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX – That perfect balance of down home and hip. In its retro way, the hippest BBQ joint. Since he joined us as a judge of BBQ Pitmasters, I have gotten to know Aaron as a gifted, Old School-style Pitmaster. At the grand old age of 35, Aaron as evolved into a classy chef who’s driven to deliver his customers the moistest, most tasty brisket in this country. Astonishingly, the man can always be found in his own restaurant, on the serving line HIMSELF cutting meat he’d put on the pits that early morning! In addition, Aaron has a deep understanding of pitbuilding. He has truly discovered the Holy Grail of fire, smoke, and heat flow. He’s like a renaissance man of ‘Q.
Photo of Franklin Barbecue courtesy of Mark P. Schram
‘Q Restaurants – Richmond, VA – Tuffy Stone runs one of the best all-round BBQ restaurants in the country. He is meticulous about ingredients, freshness, and authenticity. Therefore, every dish at Q, including ALL the sides will always be delicious, and deeply satisfying because many dishes are crafted from actual old time recipes. I would pick the ribs and all the sides for my final meal from Q.