When Did you Realize Barbecue Was So Special?

When did I realize barbecue was special? This question has been rattling inside of my head like a loose bolt in a coffee can for years because I am often asked why I am so 'obsessed' with barbecue. People assume that it is the meat that consumes my thoughts. I try to explain to them that it's not just the food. The food is the jumping-off point, but really it's the people, the atmosphere, the stories, the shared experiences, the everything. Sometimes though you have to be inside the world to completely understand.

So this is the question I posed to BBQ Joint owners, writers, craftspeople, photographers, and everyone in between in this beautifully jumbled world that is barbecue. When did you realize this barbecue thing was something more? Was it a specific bite? Was it a particular person or restaurant or event that made you realize that you were going to make this a large part of your life? I never imaged how powerful the responses would be, nor how many people were inspired by the same things.

For me, it started with a styrofoam container overnighted from Kansas City filled with sliced brisket and white bread from Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, followed by a midday lunch plate of coarse-chopped pork years later at Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina that culminated with walking into Smitty’s Market in Lockhart and seeing THAT fire. Those events, I've come to realize, were the catalyst to a strong curiosity about barbecue, which in turn led to amazing friendships among like-minded people. And it's the people that make me continue to be so interested in barbecue today.

So grab yourself a Cheerwine or a Topo Chico or a Dr. Pepper or a cold beer or even maybe a whiskey and enjoy the responses from over 122 people across the barbecue industry (some barbecue adjacent). Most likely this is something you'll want to read in several sittings. It's LONG, but I do believe is completely worth your time.

Below you'll have a chance to see what things you have in common with people that responded and also notice the common threads which I believe you will find interesting, but not surprising. Everything is in their words with some photos provided. Like everything I publish here, this will continue to grow as more people come on board.

Ashely Arellano - Pitforks and Smokerings BBQ - Slaton, Texas

"So I think for me it wasn't 1 person or 1 place. We went to Bretts Backyard BBQ for his 3 year anniversary. We didn't cook so we got to go around and taste the food. Everything was so out of the box it was so inspiring.  It made me really want to experiment with different ingredients and foods. Two people that have really helped me, and made an impact on me, are Kristen Rossler and Kimmy Bingham. The amount of help they have offered me and their support is unreal."

Issac Arellano - Pitforks and Smokerings BBQ - Slaton, Texas

"La Barbecue was probably my favorite bite of BBQ. We stood in line to order, they handed out burnt ends and I was like wow this is a game changer. Then getting into BBQ and seeing how everyone is so open and willing to help really made an impact on me. One person that really stands out for me is Arnis Robbins. He went out of his way to offer advice and help any way he could when he didn't have to."

Jim Auchmutey - Author - Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America

"My earliest food memory that doesn’t involve flinging Gerber mush at a wall concerns barbecue. When I was about five, my mother would pack her four children into the family’s green ’53 Chevy and go to Lefty’s, a barbecue drive-in on Candler Road at the Atlanta city limits. We’d order curb service and wait on our pork sandwiches for what seemed like forever, getting hungrier and hungrier as we smelled the hickory smoke drifting out of the chimney. It was the first time I was aware of my mouth watering and my stomach growling. I later realized that I was learning a crucial lesson of food writing: that thinking about food is in many ways as important as eating it. Lefty was a former minor league pitcher who opened a barbecue place after his baseball career played out. He went from one of my favorite things to another one of my favorite things. Lefty died decades ago, but the restaurant building is still standing. It's a church now, going from pigs to preachers – which makes sense to all of us who regard barbecue as something close to holy.'"

Burt Bakman - SLAB - Los Angeles, California

"I've talked about this in the past, hoping to perhaps also wake up similar memories for others who may have experienced similar experiences in other circumstances. For me, it wasn’t about the flavor of the bite or the location, but more an epiphany of a moment when I realized that barbecue is a state of mind. You can be at Snow's on a Saturday morning, in line at Truth, you can be in your backyard. Alone or with friends, its a state of mind. When I was sitting there at Iron Works BBQ on Caesar Chavez in Austin, it all hit me, and I try to get back to that state of mind every time I light a fire."

John Bates - Interstellar BBQ - Austin, Texas

"That ah-ha moment for me was the first time I visited Truth BBQ in Brenham.  Every item on the tray was great and it was a very inspiring meal for me. I knew that they were doing very special work!"

Barbecue Bros. - Blog - Barbecue Travels in NC & Beyond

From Monk: "The first time I had brisket from the Jon G’s Barbecue food truck in early 2017, I knew something special was happening in barbecue. My favorite will always be Lexington-style North Carolina barbecue (and particularly Lexington Barbecue aka “The Honeymonk”), but if brisket this amazing is available in pork-crazy NC then the paradigm has definitely shifted."

From Rudy: "When I first went to LA Barbecue in Austin, I was greeted by John Lewis with a bite of brisket to chew on while I ordered. It’s not the only place that does this, and it’s such a great idea because it immediately made me order about 2 times the amount that I was planning on ordering. But that one bite changed everything for me and took barbecue to a new level. It showed me what elite barbecue tasted like and to see the main pit master, and one of the best in the world, standing at the front of the line serving people and taking orders, made barbecue enter a whole new world for me. That bite changed how I viewed barbecue."

Marvin Bendele Director at Foodways Texas

"There's so much about barbecue and all of the wonderful people in the Texas barbecue world to love. It's truly amazing! I can't name just one joint or one  person or one dish, but I will say this about the entire community: they usually will not hesitate to support their barbecue brothers and sisters, or even those of us on the periphery. Like most organizations, Foodways Texas was knocked to the mat by Covid-19. Because of the continued support of the barbecue world (and others of course), we're still around and planning to move back to mostly normal operations in 2022. Texas barbecue and all the people producing it are treasures." 

Jill Grobowsky Bergus - Lockhart Smokehouse - Dallas/Plano/Arlington

"I remember blinking back the sunlight when I walked into the restaurant and my eyes adjusting to the smoke cured hallway. Meat smells filled the air and as we approached the meat counter and a huge, blazing fire. These are my earliest memories of Kreuz Market in Lockhart along with the steak knives chained to the long tables that line the walls. I didn’t realize in those early years the special and unique contributions my family made to Texas BBQ. We were fortunate enough to be raised with the communal unwrapping of butcher paper at the table. These days, I love sharing those memories with families when they visit us at Lockhart Smokehouse. There is something to be said about the camaraderie of indulging in a meat picnic with your friends and family that crosses all generations."

Kerry Bexley - Snow's BBQ - Lexington, Texas

"I would say when Texas Monthly named us #1 in Texas in 2008 after opening in 2003."

Mike Black - Terry Black's Barbecue - Austin/Dallas, Texas

"Growing up in a family that's owned a barbecue restaurant in Lockhart since 1932; I always loved eating brisket and appreciated all that went into making that special bite. But it wasn't until I was 20 years old at a backyard barbecue, my uncle Louis Kuntschik of Gonzales, Texas cooked up a rack of pork ribs he said would be the best I ever had, and they were. At that moment I was hooked on what barbecue could be and was determined to recreate that special bite."

Chuck Blount - Staff Writer - San Antonio Express News

"I have an interesting story. I grew up in the small town of Belle Plaine, Iowa, and in high school, I worked inside a small grocery store. The store had a butcher and a meat case, and I was always enthralled with this giant piece of beef that was marked at like $20 and nobody bought it. It was a beef brisket. Anyways, I asked our butcher, Dave Kramer, why I always had to throw this giant piece of beef out because it was expired and his response was “nobody knows how to cook it.” Fast forward 6-7 years and I moved to San Antonio. My girlfriend took me to Rudy’s in New Braunfels after tubing down the river and she told me we were getting brisket and she gave me the 101 on it. Loaded with thick pepper and salty bark, it was amazing…maybe my best bite of food in my lifetime. I ate about a ½ pound on my own. Now Rudy’s doesn’t have the greatest of reputation and I have had about 50 other places that are better, but that was the moment for me. And it really brought me back to that small town meat case. And a few years later, my girlfriend became my wife, and she got me a smoker for Christmas. I started experimenting with it and then I got hooked for life with the BBQ bug."

Brett Boren - Brett's Backyard Bar-B-Que - Rockdale, Texas

"Honestly I didn’t grow up around bbq, it was my friends cooking in the backyard in the early 2000’s that made me fall in love with it. Then I wanted to learn. So I taught myself and then I started entering comps, that’s where the itch came from. I was cooking so much I knew I had to leave corporate to pursue something on my own."

Darren Bottinelli - Botto's Craft Barbecue - Portland, Oregon

"Getting taken to the  Salt Lick in the mid 90’s."

Drew Brahs - Harper Barbecue & Pitworks - Costa Mesa, California

"My first moment in barbecue that made me realize that there was something more to our type of cooking was a long-time friend Camden Higinson. We were close friends in high school then he went to culinary school, worked at many well known restaurants including husk in Charlestown. He moved back locally and convinced me to build a smoker. Built one and he showed me that bbq doesn’t need to bitter or over powering, it can be simple and elegant."

Carey Bringle - Peg Leg Porker BBQ / Bringle's Smoking Oasis - Nashville, Tennessee

"I was influenced by a lot of people when it comes to BBQ, most of whom were my family. It seems that they all agreed that great BBQ was an essential part of our family traditions on both sides of the family. As a child and into my teens, I would sit by the PK grill with my grandfather Jack as he would cook country back ribs or smoked burgers. We would sit for hours and that time was precious to me. He carefully built the fire at one in and slowly fed hickory chunks on it as we cooked.

To this day, it was the most meticulously cooked and best burger I have ever eaten. My uncle Bruce taught me how to smoke a turkey at about age 12. I sat with him many nights by the old PK with a similar ritual as my grandfather. I was very close to both of them. Two different sides of my family. Lastly, my grandmothers on both sides were BBQ fanatics. My grandmother Gangi on my mother’s side would prep all of the sides while my granddad and I cooked the burgers or country back ribs and my Grandmother E.G. would take me to all of the BBQ places in and around West Tennessee. Many of whom my grandfather had delivered their children.

All throughout my teenage and college years, she would send me an article that she came across regarding BBQ. I developed a passion at an early age and then when 20, I joined a BBQ team with my good friend and BBQ mentors Ernie Mellow and Trip Murray. They welcomed me into the world of Memphis in May and I have now cooked there for 29 years."

Damien Brockwell - Distant Relatives - Austin, Texas

"Aside from the backyard BBQ that was omnipresent, I would have to say that the first bite, a restaurant that really made me stand up and pay attention to the flavors, nuances et al was Redbones located off of Davis Square in Somerville Massachusetts.  I was a young cook living a few blocks away on school street and walked by (and smelled) the restaurant on a daily basis as well as frequented it as a patron whenever I had enough funds.  The combination of super flavorful rubs smoke rusticity of the smoking operation in the alley alongside soulful sides that reminded me of Mom's".

James "Blue" Broussard - 1701 Barbecue - Beaumont, Texas

"I had been cooking for a while before I got to go and visit many places outside of our area.  My first experiences with eating brisket etc. we're ones that I had cooked.  A couple of years ago, I finally decided to make a trip to Katy, Texas to visit Brett’s BBQ Shop.  I immediately identified with the style of food they were creating.  To this day, it's was of my favorite places to visit. On a side note, The Beaumont area is deeply rooted in its own unique style of barbecue.  Places like Patillo's have been in operation since the early 1900's.  They are famous for their beef links. I can remember as a kid frequenting these places, and for anyone visiting our area I recommend a stop."  

Jim Buchanan - Dozier's BBQ - Fulshear, Texas

"Like a lot of guys doing commercial bbq these days, I got my start on the competition bbq circuit.  I had a number of mentors in the competition world but the guy that really taught me the most and showed me that I really did have skill was Craig Sharry from Texas Pepper Jelly. Craig and I are still friends to this day and he and his wife come to eat at Dozier's regularly. My transition to commercial bbq was spurred by two things:  One was my friendship with John Mueller (of the Louie Mueller clan) and having cooked with him a number of times.  The second was my friendship with Wes Jurena, who I eventually became partners with at Pappa Charlies Barbeque.  Wes and I worked out of a food trailer for several years slinging que at local bars and private events solely on the weekends.  Then in 2015 we opened a brick-and-mortar in East Downtown Houston, and that set my path as a bbq restaurateur. I wasn't really set on this path any particular experience at a restaurant or a specific bite, it was really more a sequence of events that lead me onto this career path."

Nichole Buckman - CorkScrew BBQ - Spring, Texas

"I was definitely over the moon for Will's barbecue.  Where we live in Spring Woodlands area at that time there was just chain barbecue so we decided the area needed the real deal.  I knew we were on to something after only being open for 6 months and getting a full-page spread in the Houston Chronicle written by Allison Cook, that was huge to us and we are still thankful for that! As far as saying we made it, um I think we know that we've done a great job, when we sell it and retire then we'll say we made it, LOL.  We are extremely proud and thankful for the years we've had so far, all the media that has acknowledged the hardwork but we are forever grateful for all the customers/Friends who have truly spread the word and who truly helped us 'Make it.'" 

Brandon Burrows - Food Scientist / Principal Scientist at Cargill

"For me, it was when I was 7 years old. My family was on a road trip and we were visiting cousins in Chattanooga, TN. My Uncle had smoked some pork ribs. I had eaten ribs before, but this was on a whole different level. The smoke, the dry seasoning, the flavor of the meat. It didn’t need sauce it was so good. Definitely a lasting impression."

Mark Champion - Photography - @ninthinningtx + @throwinsmoketx + @oildawgstx

"Man, good question! I’d have to say Joe Cotton’s Barbecue in Robstown, TX as a kid. During our interview, I gave this place a lot of reverence, and rightfully so, it’s Joe Cotton’s who took Texas barbecue (for me) to that level of excellence. It might of not been “salt pepper smoke” on the brisket, but it was true to South Texas and resonated in my DNA early on that barbecue in Texas was something special. It’s that one memory as a kid that is so intertwined in my brain that I can still smell the flavors in the air as the waiters brought out the white wax paper carrying smoked proteins."

Daryl Chun - @slowburn_bbq@smokecellarbbq

"After a few trips to Austin and eating at handfuls of different BBQ joints, we ended up in Taylor at Louie Mueller. I remember walking up to the building and just thinking how cool this place looked. When we got inside, we ordered brisket and beef ribs. We sat down at a table near the business card wall and I remember just looking around and feeling in awe; the pit, the walls the decor and just thinking this place has so much history. Then we got into the brisket and beef ribs. The first bite was just perfect. The building, the food, it felt like BBQ heaven.  Fast forward 3 years later I amazingly found myself working alongside Wayne in California. Every word he spoke to me was like gospel. His passion, his knowledge, and kind words are something I’ve never forgotten." 

Ryan Cooper - BBQ Tourist / The Smoke Sheet

"I am not sure I can pin it down to one bite or one person but certainly, my first visit to Texas was eye-opening. My very first stop was at Louie Mueller and walking through that door really made me feel like I was experiencing something unique and different…a new barbecue experience I never had growing up in Kansas City. My second stop was Snow’s BBQ and the experience was incredible. The food was great but what made it remarkable was really a combination of the people, the atmosphere, and the experience. My third stop was Valentina’s Tex Mex and I loved the vibe there as well. I also went to Smitty’s and Kreuz in Lockhart and City Market in Luling and after that, I knew I wanted to visit as many BBQ joints across the country as possible. That first BBQ trip to Texas completely changed my life."

Clay Cowgill - Snow's BBQ - Lexington, Texas

"4 years old at Tootsie’s meat market. The porksteak."

Todd David - Cattleack BBQ - Dallas, Texas

"There was no unique moment that said something is going on. From childhood, bbq was an event that was always meaningful and special. It could have been my folks cooking ribs in the backyard for friends that were over, or stopping on the side of the road when traveling in the car for a bbq sandwich. It was good food and a reason to enjoy it. All the way back to cavemen, grilling or smoking meat to feed others is simple and challenging and something that everyone thinks they can do too at some level. The best bite that always remains with me was from John Lewis when he was the pitmaster at la Barbecue. Everything I have done with bbq just evolved and still does by still just trying to feed people and have a great time."

Ardie Davis - Author, PhB (doctorate in barbecue philosophy), and founder of the American Royal BBQ Sauce, Rub and Baste Contest.

"Since barbecue is integral to the Oklahoma culture I grew up in, it was something I took for granted as a special, essential part of life. Years later, after moving from New York City to Kansas City, I realized “something unique was going on here” with barbecue after reading Calvin Trillin’s praise of Arthur Bryant’s in his book, American Fried, enjoying free brisket “burned edges” with a beef sandwich, fries & a frosty mug of beer at Bryant’s with friends visiting from New York, and later meeting Mr. Bryant—a memorable experience, followed by starting a national barbecue sauce contest in our backyard patio, becoming a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and meeting so many good people who share a passion for barbecue excellence…something special, unique and priceless is going on here."

Abe Delgado - Host of the @icrushbbqshow

"Harold Christian of Harold’s Pit Bar-B-Q. I grew up going to Harold’s as a kid.  I didn’t care what kind of pit they used or what wood they were burning, I just loved the barbecue and that sweet signature BBQ sauce.  You’d better not skip that hot water cornbread either!  The best part was when Mr. Harold would belt out some Church hymns and the whole restaurant would sing along.  I could still remember the red & white tabletops.  He started his business in 1956 and closed for medical reasons in 2011, he later passed in 2016.  I wish we could turn back time.  This was a special place for many folks.  I added a couple of clips for reference HERE and HERE."

Bill Dumas - Sausage Sensei - Liberty Barbecue in Round Rock, Texas & Brotherton's Black Iron Barbecue in Pflugerville, Texas

"Steve’s Bar-B-Q. Denton, Texas. As a kid growing up in the 1970s/80s, we were frequent visitors to this old, small, brightly coloured, red & yellow building. It was just a stone’s throw away from the railroad switchyard; the passing Santa Fe engines pulling their cars to far-flung destinations shook the building. Inside was dark and dim, just a few tables and chairs, a jukebox, and a worn leaning counter. Behind that counter was a huge brick bbq pit-black as coal, firebox door open as bright yellow flames danced to OV Wright’s pleading voice in the jukebox speakers. Every square inch inside was yellowed with smoke, and the smoke itself hung in the air as a blues song by Bobby Blue Bland pierced it like a knife. Two Steps From The Blues.

On the counter were small, individually sized Sweet Potato Pies made by, the Owner’s daughter. The crust, light and flaky with a richness from the lard used to make the crust. The perfect balance of sweetness to spice was matched only by the texture of the filling which was perfectly, roughly mixed. Wrapped in cellophane, waiting for the customers who knew a good thing when they saw it.

This was not Central Texas BBQ. This was classic East Texas BBQ; the type you might find at a church function, a family gathering or a good domino game. Brisket perfectly rendered, almost to the point of being rendered too far. Almost. Punctuated with thick pecan wood smoke, and black pepper. Sliced and put onto cheap white bread, with pickles and onions. Hit hard with Steve’s own signature Spicy BBQ Sauce. Tomato and Molasses-based sauce flecked with black pepper and a level of heat that would produce beads of sweat before you consumed the last bite of sandwich; grease and sauce covering your hands and dripping down your arm. It was sublime, as a now a BB King song changed into position on the jukebox, punching through the smoke-filled room. The Thrill is Gone because Steve’s burned down sometime in the mid-1990s. I’ve been searching for another joint like it, with no success. The memories of what inspire are still here within me."

Randy Duncan - Daddy Duncan's BBQ - Katy, Texas

"Automatically, Scott Moore Jr. comes to mind. I’m not sure how many years back, maybe 5-6. I heard of this place in Tomball that had chocolate & barbecue. Loved the story behind the Mom & Pop shop. My goal was to try them out ASAP. Then a few of us went to the HOU BBQ Festival where I met Scott Moore Jr. for the first time in person. Think of the most chill laid back guy ever. We talked, grabbed a photo, and they had some amazing pork ribs that day. Which he didn’t mind telling pretty much how they smoked them. I was honored. They hit TM Top 50 shortly after or before. But, my first time going there was epic! He actually had a Golden Ticket saved for me, but I didn’t know what it was for? Thankfully, we were like 12th in line that hot Summer day. So the wait wasn’t too bad, but the line was deep behind us. Plus ice cold free beer. Long story short. I got the nickel tour, tried a Dino Beef Rib for the first time, and the Carrot Soufflé. Now we’re BBQ Family and do events together."

Justin Easterwood - Chef J BBQ - Kansas City, Missouri

"I appreciate you including us. It's really hard to say what exactly made it click in my head for bbq. I can remember probably 15 years ago watching BBQ pitmasters in my basement and seeing and learning about Franklin bbq for the first time. Back in that time, it seemed that cooking bbq in this style was more for backyard bbq and there weren't many places cooking like this and selling commercially. So I started doing my research on him. He was obviously having tremendous success with it serving the high quality, live-fire cooking,  open to sellout style and that was something I always wanted to replicate when I would one day open a restaurant.  Also, seeing bbq change and really elevate over the years has been an inspiration as well. With live fire cooking, there's so much good flavor just from the fire and so many ways you have to adapt." 

Randy Estrada - Estrada's Texas Barbecue - Austin, Texas

"My first thought when it comes to BBQ is fire! When I was a kid, my first BBQ experience was walking into the Kreuz pit room (now Smitty's) and walking by that fire on the floor near the pit. To feel the heat, smell the smoke, see it all over the walls, and finally taste it when we ate, I thought it was just incredible! That's when I knew that there was just something special and unique about barbecue!"

Lisa Fain - Homesick Texan

"One day, I had the opportunity to stand behind a cutter at a barbecue joint. As I watched the long stream of happy people walk up to the counter and order their meal, I noticed that while they were from different walks of life, this beautifully diverse group of people had found common ground through their simple pursuit of a barbecue lunch. Barbecue brings us together, and that’s why it’s so powerful and special to me."

Erin Feges - Feges BBQ - Spring Branch / Greenway Plaza

"This is easy for me. The first time I went to Louie Mueller BBQ I met Wayne Mueller and he sat down with us. He was incredibly gracious, welcoming, and also very honest about how hard this business is. I'll never forget that trip to Taylor, TX, and that conversation with Wayne. There are a lot of great people in BBQ but I've never come across anyone like Wayne. He's the quiet, humble mentor of Texas BBQ." 

Patrick Feges - Feges BBQ - Spring Branch / Greenway Plaza

"I'd say it was probably a combination of John Mueller's beef rib at John Mueller Meat Co. and Ronnie Killen's bone-in pork belly when he was doing pop-ups out of his steak house."

Jon Flaming - Artist - Texas

"Louis Mueller and Snow's are the 2 places that really made an impact on me. Didn’t realize until then what BBQ was supposed to taste like. Now, I judge everything against those 2 places :)"

Jonathan Fox - Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q - Atlanta, Georgia

"Having been open going on 15 years craft barbecue as we know it now wasn’t a thing…we did pop-ups before pop-ups were a thing… really what inspired me was when I moved to Atlanta from Texas in 1998 I was searching for the style of barbecue I knew and grew up eating which was nowhere to be found in Atlanta I can go more into it if this is along the path of what you are looking for so let me know…I will add the hobby of creating the barbecue quickly took off to a full-time hobby into a career!"

Aaron Franklin - Franklin Barbecue - Austin, Texas

"A handful of years before we opened the bbq trailer, I would travel to Lockhart and Luling and Taylor with my buddy Big Jeff. He introduced me to that traditional Central Texas barbecue scene. I loved the esthetic of everything. Smitty's fire on the floor. The smokey room where you ordered your meat at Luling City Market. Hot Guts. The photos from Wyatt McSpadden -- like the one of Louis Mueller's Barbecue -- a bottle of toothpicks sitting on a table. I always had a fondness for bbq, ever since I was a youngster at my parent's small bbq joint in Bryan."

Chad Franks - Schmidt Family Barbecue - Bee Cave, Texas

"For me it was John Fullilove and Smitty’s Market along with Roy Perez and Kreuz Market."  

Susie Franks - Schmidt Family Barbecue - Bee Cave, Texas

"For me I don’t think I ever knew it as anything different or special, it’s always just been what our family did starting with my grandpa.  My first memory at the market is when I was probably about 5 years old sitting on the bench beside the staircase watching the fire and people going up and down the stairs to the 2nd floor dining hall.  My strongest memory is going down to the market when I was in junior high and high school seeing my dad standing there at the same spot I used to used. It’s also where we hang out now as we’re older when we go meet friends.  And where Nina or Jim are usually sitting when I go down there. 🙂  
I think for me what makes it special is all the amazing people we’ve met in BBQ since we opened SFB.  The festivals and events feel like family reunions when we get to see all our BBQ friends and family."  

Fernando Gonzales - 2Fifty Texas BBQ - Riverdale, Maryland

It was early April 2017 when I decided to stand in line at Franklin Barbecue. The atmosphere captivated me immediately. I arrived alone but I was adopted instantly by a bachelorette party, great people with whom I still have communication with. There was camaraderie, an improvised corn hole tournament, free beer, and funny stories while the smell inundated the whole block. Keep in mind I was at that time coming straight from a nonsmoking meats traditional country, I had no clue of what to expect or what was going to be served. The meat cutting station, the service, the plating, it was all surreal for me. Tasting the flavor of an authentic wood-smoked barbecue for the first time at that particular joint was a completely out-of-the-body experience. I thought about all my family and friends living in El Salvador who were unable to join me at the table in that magic moment. I had to do something.

I was able to meet Aaron at his smokehouse that day. While he was moving coals from one smoker to the other I asked him: “What is that for?” “I’m just experimenting” - he replied. His answer still echoes in my head when on a cold night in Maryland I’m experimenting with something new. 

Here are some memories (photos) from that day:

Ken Goodman - Ken Goodman Photography

"It was 1993 when I visited my friend Andy Husbands in Cambridge MA. He was the chef at a BBQ restaurant owned by Chris Schlesinger called East Coast Grill and he was hoping I'd become his sous chef. That night Andy served me a three meat platter of brisket, ribs and pulled pork with cornbread, coleslaw and watermelon. This towering, mouthwatering gesture was my introduction to authentic BBQ and needless to say, I took the job. Never has a plate of food (before then or since) had such a profound impact on my life's trajectory." 

Alex Graf - ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque - Richmond, Virginia

"Somehow that feels like a trick question to me. But it’s not. I was introduced to Texas BBQ by this fellow I had just started dating. Food was absolutely part of our courtship but when he smoked brisket for the first time for me (and several others) the game changed. From that moment I was on board to see where we could take it, one brisket at a time. I am so grateful for this journey with Chris Fultz."

Tyler Harp - Harp Barbecue - Raytown, Missouri

"For me it was a triangle drive of Snow's, Louie Mueller, and Southside Market on a Saturday in fall of ‘16 with my dad and uncle."

Phillip and Yvette Helberg - Helberg Barbecue - Waco, Texas

"That person is John Mueller, at his old trailer John Mueller Meat Co. on E. 6th Street in Austin. (2500 E. 6th Street, Austin, 78704). That was my (Yvette) first taste of bbq in Texas in February of 2016, before Phill even started trying it himself. The brisket had great bark and we had never had fatty brisket that melted in our mouth like that. That cheesy squash was to die for. Later on, our inspiration drew from 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio."

R.J. Hinkle - R.J. Hinkle Photography / Also R.J. Hinkle Food Photography

"I would have to say the whole Miller family in Belton (Miller's Smokehouse), who are not only incredible but very representative of the awesomeness of the Texas BBQ community as a whole and a model to which all should aspire."


"Went to a fraternity rush event in college at The Salt Lick and started to fall in love with BBQ. So much meat! My first bite of Franklin’s brisket when Aaron was in the trailer is what caused this chase for the all the great bites in Q."

Andy Husbands - The Smoke Shop by Andy Husbands - 5 Boston Locations

"Growing up in Seattle I can honestly tell you until I was 22 I had never had what I now consider real BBQ.  My father loved to grill and, this is in the 1970’s, he would grill ‘country style ribs’ aka blade steaks with the bone bone in, smothered in some sort of overly smokey commercial bbq sauce and that along with anything else on the grill we would consider BBQ. After graduating culinary school, I started working for James Beard Award winner, Owner of the East Coast Grill and Jake & Earl’s Dixie BBQ, and author of the influential Thrill of the Grill Chris Schlesinger, this was a life changing moment for me.  While at the time I was more interested in running the East Coast Grill, Chris pulled me aside and started to train me at Jake & Earl’s Dixie BBQ, explaining to me why he opened it and why it was important.  I can still remember him pulling off a piece of pulled pork for me to eat, and slicing a rib right from the smoker- that spiced, smoked, juicy, intoxicating meat blew me away, this was my game changer, I wanted to and needed to know everything about this amazing & humbling cuisine. I had no idea that those first bites would turn into a passion, obsession, occupation".

Michael Keskin - Bark City BBQ - Portland, Oregon

"My dad took me to a BBQ spot in downtown Washington D.C. when I was a kid. It was an amazing experience! The bbq smoker (can’t remember what kind of smoker, and I was a kid, so I didn’t know what kind) was on the street, and it was delicious! My dad ordered for me, I didn’t get a choice! It was white bread, with smothered wet ribs and another slice on top! It was a experience I will always remember! Sopping up the sauce on the bread and eating the delicious ribs! My menu has my version on it called “DC streets”. I have no idea the name of this bbq spot. It literally was a bbq pop up! Lol"

Ali Khan - Emotionally invested eater and host on @foodnetwork + @discoveryplus

"La Barbecue is always gonna stand out in my mind. It was the first real deal BBQ joint in Austin I had been to and even though I ventured to try BBQ joints in South LA with respectable history, the hype and attention at La Barbecue was creating a special product.  We got there late in the day(early afternoon) so a fair amount of food had been sold out. A good sign. It was the first time I ate BBQ brisket and had zero regrets. Before the Central Texas BBQ wave hit LA, the old school BBQ joints in LA either didn't serve beef or it was a regrettable order. Same goes for the sausage. Both were phenomenal. It was my first bite of craft BBQ and like chef driven burgers, the premium ingredients and attention to detail took my breath away. Those were hallmarks of an "Ali Khan Eats find" and what always seemed to draw me to try a new restaurant, at least back then.  It should also be noted that I didn't even live in Austin yet, we actually decided to move there over a plate of La Barbecue. It's sealed in the memory banks and will always be a special place."

Ronnie Killen - Killen's Barbecue - Pearland/Woodlands, Texas

"My uncle Wilfred's brisket is the piece of barbecue that change my life on barbecue."

Lance Kirkpatrick - Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew - Austin / Cedar Park

"For me it’s an easy answer. I walked into Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor in February of 2001 answering and add in the local paper for counter help and light prep duties. I sat at an old hand made wooden table that afternoon with Bobby and Trish Mueller and discussed the position they had available. We agreed on a wage, a schedule, and I started working for the Mueller’s the following week. Growing up in west texas barbecue wasn’t a regular thing, barbecuing to me was grilling hamburgers, fajitas and hotdogs. I knew nothing about brisket pork ribs or sausage. And nothing about the community of texas barbecue and mostly I knew nothing of its hold on the hearts of so many Texans. The first week went well and I really enjoyed the counter service aspect, I had just left a longtime bar tending position and picked right up with the friendly barbecue customers.

It was on that first Saturday that I realized this place was special. We had seen the lunch crowd all week of local farmers and ranchers mixed with school teachers and coaches, railroad workers and local businesses men. But Saturday at Louie mueller is really a special day. Bobby knew most of his customers by name and would speak to each of them like old friends. There were a few examples of fathers and sons that would come in together on Saturday’s. One of the men’s name is Bill and he still comes to eat barbecue with me at our dripping springs location, his father has since passed. Another gentleman would bring his kids in on the weekends and they couldn’t see over the counter when I started serving them Barbecue, I have since cooked for both of their weddings.

A local rancher who i grew to admire and respect very much would come in each Saturday with his son in law and any other family member they could get to come along. I first met John (Dunker) Stiles at that counter where he would regularly get barbecue to take home to the family , and like the others mentioned he would bring his son Shane to join him on Saturday’s. It was this love of tradition that Dunker passed down to Shane that led him to open Stiles Switch Barbecue 10 years ago. Bobby Mueller taught me many things about barbecue, most of these things have nothing to do with cooking barbecue. To be sure , he taught me how to cook, but he taught me what this experience meant to folks and how to treat it with reverence and tradition and that when we’re serving someone this traditionally prepared meal in this historic, traditional way that it means something. Or it should. I fell in love with that, with the connection of barbecue cook and customer. I fell in love with that tradition. I’ll always love and respect Bobby’s memory. He was my mentor and my friend. I think of him and honor him daily."

Rebecca King - The Bad Jew - Los Angeles, California

"Danny Gordon changed my view on barbecue.I was a stranger messaging him on Instagram and he spent time and energy on teaching me all that he possibly could over DM’s. I was so inspired and wanted to work with him so I asked for a job. He taught me that bbq is familial and you can taste that in the food."

Ray Lampe - Author/Chef | Dr. BBQ The Restaurant - St. Petersburg, Florida

"Happy to join in this fun! I learned to cook in high school and always enjoyed it. But I had a career in the family business so it was just a way to get a decent meal without going out. When I was 25, a friend signed us up for a rib cooking contest because it promised a fun day in the park drinking beer and hanging around. I was the only guy that knew how to cook so I volunteered. I had never cooked any barbecue but I was intrigued. I borrowed a Weber kettle, bought some ribs and headed to the cookout. That day changed my life forever. The park was full of people like me that liked to cook, but they had taken it to the next level. There were big homemade smokers and cases of ribs. Big fires and smoke and a bunch of people hanging around drinking some beers while patiently waiting for the ribs to get done. This all made complete sense to me I was immediately hooked. I had found my people. This thing called barbecue was where I belonged. I went home and immediately started planning for that event the next year. I immediately started working on my next smoker. It was something special and I was all in. I’ve heard this same story in many forms from many people. We all have that moment where it clicked and we were hooked. Mine was in September of 1982."

Lawrence La Pianta - Cherry St. Bar-B-Que - Toronto, Canada

"The first bite that changed everything for me was my 2012 visit to Texas. Drove from Dallas to Austin with stops along the way. Did all of Lockhart on that trip and a couple in Austin. My last morning before arriving back to Dallas we went to Franklin BBQ First bite of brisket was an epiphany. It tasted like nothing else I had while visiting any of the other bbq joints. It's a flavour memory I will never forget. As far as bbq people go, it's gotta be Mr Mike Mills from 17th Street Barbecue.  When I met him for the first time at a class in Murphysboro it felt like I was home. The term BBQ Family is used a lot, but all of the wonderful people I have met and gone on to learn from and cook with i met there. It will always be a very special place to me."

Alice Laussade - Meat Fight

"Growing up in Texas, barbecue was always a staple. My parents made every meal for us, and they were great cooks. The Joy of Cooking's pages all worn, anything Jacques Pépin, everything Julia Child-- and barbecue. Always barbecue. My parents were foodies before foodies were invented. I hadn't ever been to Arby's or Taco Cabana or Kentucky Fried Chicken when I arrived at college. All this to say: I knew good barbecue because I was raised with it. Made at home. In the oven. Just like a good 1980's brisket is supposed to be. So, when I sat down at a patio table at my friend, Greg Smith's house in the early 2000's, and he served us a beautiful brisket, I was so ready to try it. I cracked my knuckles and asked the question that only the most professional barbecue-eater-foodie-person would ask:

Me: "This looks great! Where's the sauce?"

Greg: "You don't need sauce for this brisket. I promise."

Me: "You're dumb, Greg." (Takes one bite of this brisket. "A Whole New World" from Aladdin plays in her mind, Brisket holds her hand on a magic carpet as they fly through the sky together to a land of hope, happiness and opportunity.)

Greg: "I told you."

This was the moment. Like Neo "I know Kung Fu"-ing in The Matrix, I suddenly had a complete understanding of what barbecue should be, and it changed my entire barbecue worldview forever. I celebrate all preparations of brisket, from oven to smoker. But Greg's brisket was a barbecue gateway drug for me. This was the moment that put me on a path to barbecue obsession and brisket-fueled craziness.

Keep your smokers fired up, y'all. You're changing lives out there

Evan LeRoy - LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue - Austin, Texas

"It was more of a slow realization to me. I had been around bbq growing up in Austin and it was kind of already a big deal culturally.I think once I started to become friends and friendly with people I looked up to like Wayne Mueller and Aaron Franklin. Meeting these people who were gods and then realizing they were just genuinely great folks as well."

Sawyer Lewis - Evan LeRoy - LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue - Austin, Texas

"Evan LeRoy! I know that sounds cheesy,  bc it’s an obvious but honestly, his perceptive on BBQ is incredibly inspiring. He is so passionate and confident in his vision despite initial skepticism. He continues to drive things forward. Both my husband Nathan and I are so grateful to be apart of the BBQ world today, and I truly have to thank him for that.  Also - shout out to Bradley Robinson for continuing to entertain and innovate. He is also one of a kind!"

Kris Manning - Smokey Joe's BBQ - Dallas, Texas

"I went to Terry’s Black’s BBQ in Austin about 4 or 5 years ago and tried the brisket. The brisket was amazing! I had never tried brisket like that before, which then began a path for me to learn how to cook brisket as great as that bite of brisket. That was a life changing moment for me."

Sheldon Mason - Director of Operations at Miller's Smokehouse - Belton, Texas

"This is a unique question because so many will relate that to a first bite. For me this was more like an experience of something deep- seeded. As the turn of the Golden Age of bbq was turning the corner, for me that was 2009-2013.  I knew something was really happening in the industry that was special. Texas really led the pack with places really refining the craft to a new level. I relate bbq to coffee in many ways, hours are spent working on something in hopes to have people enjoy hours of sweat and hard work producing it. I was working on my cookers at the time hoping to achieve the same level of quality and that feeling that people would wait in line to enjoy bbq. There’s a rush that comes with cutting bbq when there’s an insurmountable line out the door. Only a few people will ever get to experience that. I got my first real rush at 2M in 2019 and I’ve never stopped chasing the bbq dragon. This is also 2 parts, after becoming friends with Wayne Mueller and getting work along side him for over a year in Taylor Changed my life for ever. The rush I felt walking In those doors the first time and lighting a fire, and cooking in a sacred place cannot be replaced for me. It will always the be pinnacle of my bbq career." 

Joe McGregor - Photographer / Ministers of Smoke

"BITE: Back in the day, circa 2011, Pecan Lodge operated out of the Dallas Farmers' Market. Bear in mind that as a Texas native pre-2011, my exposure to bbq was plentiful, but only to poor to average bbq. That is why I couldn't understand why Pecan Lodge was averaging 1.5 hour waits. How could bbq be worth that kind of time investment? Nevertheless, I joined some friends in line and waited it out, convinced that I would not be rewarded. But when I sunk my teeth into that first piece of brisket I immediately decided that yes, it was very worth it. From that point forward I started to diligently seek out better bbq.  EXPERIENCE: When I first started photographing pitmasters, it was very transactional. I was there to take a picture. Yes, I was a bbq fan, but I viewed the pitmasters much like I viewed everyone else. It did not take long to observe how hard these men and women were working, paired with extreme hospitality towards an outsider interrupting their daily schedule. Each new pitmaster I met I would swear that he was the nicest guy in bbq, and then the next bbq joint I would have to revise my opinion and say 'no, THAT is the nicest guy in bbq.' I also quickly learned that they talked to each other regularly, sharing knowledge and sharing each others' burdens, and sometimes sharing what most of us would consider trade secrets. It was unlike any business environment I had ever seen. That camaraderie drew me in--fascinated me. I was always a fan of the food; getting to know these pitmasters better made me an even bigger fan of the people."

Charlie Mckenna - Lillie's Q - Chicago, Illinois

"What makes the bbq community special I came to realize wasn’t one particular restaurant/joint, person, food bite.  I come from a fine-dining background and on that side of the hospitality world, it is fierce competition to perform at the highest level and be really cutthroat sometimes to people that you work for or with.  Who is creating the next best dish or restaurant.  Since I’ve drifted to more of the live-fire/Barbeque world I’ve seen still the same fierce competition but more of a rising tide brings up all ships type of scenario.  Everyone in this Barbeque world is immensely proud of what they are doing/cooking as they should be but much more willing to share their wins and losses and how that challenged them to be better.  The constant pushing to be better from my peer friends, peer restaurants, or just competition cooks has been a huge part of my success but in a healthier way!  That is what a community is to me people that push each other but share in each other’s successes.  This is what the Barbeque community has done for me and I hope that I can do that for future live fire/Barbeque cooks."

Wyatt McSpadden - Photographer - Follow him on social media HERE (he’s not on Instagram).

"I moved from Amarillo to Austin in 1992. I worked as a freelance photographer doing anything that came along & generated some income. I was befriended by a fellow named John Morthland, a freelance writer who covered music & food. John took me to Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX just south of Austin. Kreuz was in it’s original location just off the town square. The placewas dark, deeply smokey, with flames rising from the wood that fueled the 2 brick pits. You could burn some leg hear offstanding in line to order. John insisted I have a pork chop which was cut from a full bone in pork loin, he’d described the “chop” as ambrosial in a magazine article & he was right to do so. I was in love & remain so today. My go to lunch at Kreuz is now the phenomenal smoked chicken."

Photo provided by Wyatt McSpadden

Dan Misuraca - Red White & Que Smokehouse - Kearny, New Jersey

“In 2015, 23 years from when I joined the marine corps I invited a bunch of guys from my old unit that I served with from all over the country to my little backyard for a good old fashioned weekend of beer, bbq and bullshit. The truth is that there is nothing that brings people together quite like BBQ. Everyone has their own flavors and styles that they like. Everyone wants to show off their skills and watch you try their specialty. For me it was cooking two whole hogs over a cinder block pit. In all honesty it was the first time I have actually tried this method but I felt confident and knew it would at least be edible and that likely the best part about it would just be standing around the pit drinking beers all night and bullshitting with my brothers.  That weekend inspired me and my wife to take the plunge into opening our own tiny little smokehouse. We knew from that weekend that the most important thing about delivering good BBQ was the spirit and effort behind it and the fact that meat over live fire is just damn good! BBQ has a way of bringing people together, creating community and it is just slathered in good vibes and we knew that we could create that kind of environment in our own place.”  

Sunny Moberg - Moberg Smokers - Dripping Springs, Texas

"As you know, BBQ runs several generations back in my family and smoked meats have always been a part of our gatherings thanks to my Opa with Smokey Denmark Sausage. I always wanted to build Smokers for a living, but just never had the consistent business to fulfill that dream. It wasn’t until I met Brett with Brett’s Backyard Barbecue to do some updates on his competition Smoker that really reignited my passion for smokers. I enjoy building competition rigs, but I really love the commercial side of BBQ pit building because I build a great tool for a dedicated craftsman, the Pitmaster. It’s so awesome to see their smile when they pick up their rig, but it’s really special to see them use our smoker to multiply that smile into hundreds more as they feed the customers at their establishments. The BBQ Family is really something special and I am so proud to be part of it."

Conor Moran - @costofgoodstold and on3media

Robert F. Moss - Founder, Lime Tree Media & Southeastern Dispatch. Contributing BBQ Editor, Southern Living. Author, Barbecue: The History of an American Institution

"There is no one single moment but a series of moments from my memory that I think added up to make me realize something unique was going on with barbecue, and it happened long before barbecue had its 21st-century revival and became trendy again. As a small child in the 1970s, I have vague memories of going to an outdoor pig picking—probably hosted by a member of our church—and seeing the whole cooked pig laid out, head and all, with an apple in its mouth. As a small boy that head and the apple really fascinated me. Flash forward to the 1980s and my middle school years and my father took me and my brothers to get lunch at one of the strip mall Little Pigs BBQ in Greenville (one of the remnants of the old Little Pigs of America franchise chain). I remember vividly the wonderful smell of hickory smoke when we walked in the door—this Little Pigs still cooked on a wood-fired brick pit that was right behind the counter—and the whacking sound of the cleaver on the chopping block as they prepared our sandwiches. It was a rare experience, for as a suburban teenager I mostly ate at all the national fast-food burger and pizza joints. Flash forward again to around 1990 when I was in college and grew weary of fast food chains and fell in love with old-school independent restaurants like diners, burger stands, and fried chicken joints. This was before the Internet, and there wasn't an easy way to track such places down, so I started driving around the backroads of the Upstate of South Carolina and Piedmont of North Carolina and stopping off at whatever interesting-looking restaurants I stumbled upon. One such place was a little nondescript barbecue joint in Rutherfordton, North Carolina—I can't remember the name and it's long gone now—and from the moment I got out of the car and smelled the smoke from the pit I was intrigued, The first bite of the smoky, chopped pork sandwich on a plain white bun immediately invoked memories from those earlier encounters, and from then on I was hooked."

Hirotoshi Mugen - #TXBBQCRAWL

"The person that made me realize the uniqueness of BBQ in 2014 is Packy Saunders. His reach within the BBQ community goes far beyond the Houston community. Yesterday at Snow’s, I bumped into Tony Salazar of Taste of Texas Tex-Mex BBQ in Beaumont who told me Packy messaged him on IG daily over the past 2 years. The Helbergs proudly hung one of his last paintings, the one of Tootsie. He played matchmaker for Cody of Hoodoo Brown BBQ. He came up with the “Heim Time” motto. He raved about the pastrami at Little Miss since 2015. He reached out to Andrew Soto of Butter's when he was publicly frustrated and ready to quit. So many stories. You won’t find a better advocate for Texas BBQ. Ask just about anyone in the BBQ business, someone has a story about Packy. Russell Roegels, Daniel Vaughn, Michael Fulmer, Don Nguyen, Danny Castillo, Patrick Feges, I’m sure they’ll tell you a story. Clay Cowgill told me the origins of #cowgillin involving Packy of course. For me, he helped humanize BBQ beyond just whether X has better brisket than Y. His post about the time we brought bowls of pho to Corkscrew BBQ in 2014 for Christmas succinctly defines what makes Texas BBQ unique, to me at least (see below)."

Post Hirotoshi Shared By Packy Saunders

Zach Oldham - Texas Based Graphic Designer

"For me, it would be Miller’s Smokehouse. Until I met and started working with them, I had no idea barbecue was such an established community. Because of my involvement with them, I was fortunate enough to meet so many great, hard-working men and women – many of whom I’m grateful to still see and hang out with to this day."

Nick Pencis - Stanley's Pit Bar-B-Q - Tyler, Texas

"Mine is simple. I grew eating bbq in central texas with my grandmother, but don’t have a particularly fond memory of where we were. But, the first time I sat down at Stanley’s, more than 5 years before I ever had anything to do with it, I took a bite of a brother-in-law and was HOOKED! That led me to become more interested in the bbq world and eventually landed me at the helm of Stanley’s. I’ve had many eye-opening bbq trips, especially early on in my tenure at Stanley's as I tried to lead us back to our roots… Walking around the fire on the floor at Smitty’s. My first beef rib at Louie Mueller’s. My first bite of Aaron Franklin’s brisket at the picnic table outback by the pits. Sitting below the visible line of smoke diving the room inside at Pat G’s. A jerk baby back rib at Hometown in Brooklyn. Watching Ms. Tootsie and Kerry do their thing at 4 am at Snow’s. But most importantly the comradery when all of the pitmasters get together after a festival or event and cut up and have a drink together. I love those moments!"

Kate Praslicka - Kate Praslicka Photography - Food and Brand Photographer

"The person that made me realize that something unique was going on here was Matt Pittman (Meat Church BBQ). I remember in 2013 sharing the pitmasters audition video on Facebook and not really thinking anything about it and then next time I was over at the Pittman's house he told me they were selected and that the overwhelming amount of people who shared and commented about getting them on there was enough for the producers to make that selection. Haha! I think that's when I realized what he was capable of in the BBQ community was really special.  Since then, I've seen how he's connected your everyday backyard BBQ guy to some of the biggest names in BBQ. It's really special and I've enjoyed watching it all unfold!"

Nick Priedite - Priedite Barbecue - Los Alamos, California

"The place and person that sparked it for me was la Barbecue in ATX at their original trailer location on 6th st. It was there I met Dylan Taylor and Brendan Lamb. I came toting a 6 pack, and they let me hang out and cook brisket and beef ribs with them. But it was the outdoor and somewhat ‘wild’ cooking environment that I was drawn to. It was very real and they were really enjoying themselves doing it. That’s when I found my definitions of barbecue". 

Chris Prieto - Prime Barbecue - Knightdale, North Carolina

"It would have to be my first bite of barbecue at Dozier's BBQ located in Fulshear, TX. As kids, we used to call it "the BBQ place with candy", because it was both a convenience store, butcher, and bbq joint. My father would always buy us a piece of candy every time we finished our plate of barbecue (I always finished). As a young boy, this place became my first love. I loved everything about the experience, the food, and the authenticity of its Texas roots. If I never visited here I would not have found my calling in my life of barbecue."

Natalie Ramsey - Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge - Shelby, North Carolina

"I would definitely say my grandparents Red and Lyttle Bridges the founders of Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge! We still do the same thing they did 76 years ago by fresh pit cooking pork shoulders daily on hickory and oak. They knew exactly what they were doing to PERFECTION!!! I am truly blessed to be the third generation and to be looked at as their granddaughter! Hope this can help and if you have any other questions let me know! Have a blessed day!"

John Shelton Reed - Author of On Barbecue

"What a great project!   You probably have this quote from Mike Mills, but just in case you don’t:  “The spaghetti people are not getting together like this.”  My first taste of whole-hog eastern North Carolina barbecue changed my life. Honest. It was at Turnage’s in Durham where my girlfriend (later my wife) Dale took me when I came to visit her at Duke, where she was a first-year student. It had been an eye-opener for her, too. Forty-some years later Dale and I wrote Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue. Now it’s sixty years since that first bite and I’m still eating barbecue and writing about it.  Turnage’s was a great place, and not just for its barbecue. I’ll attach some things about it.

I should have added that the scene at Turnage’s was unique. The food was served family-style at long tables. Big platters of chopped barbecue, shared. There was a bandleader, a Chapel Hill boy, named Kay Kyser who was a big deal in the 1930s and ‘40s. Turnage’s had his old piano and occasionally his old piano player would come by and lead a sing-along."

J.C. Reid - Barbecue columnist for the Houston Chronicle

"Around 2010 I heard about a new barbecue joint called Pierson & Co. in the Acres Homes neighborhood of Houston. This neighborhood is legendary for producing barbecue joints like Williams Smokehouse and Burns BBQ, which were traditionally African-American, East Texas-style barbecue. So I figured I’d go check out a new East Texas-style joint. But when I got there, the menu was a jumble of legit Central Texas-style brisket, East Texas-style pork spareribs, and Cajun influences like boudin. I’d never seen a menu quite like it. Since then other joints like Gatlin’s and Ray’s BBQ Shack have adopted this type of menu that is uniquely Houston. Gentrification in the neighborhood resulted in a developer making too good of an offer to Mr. Pierson and in 2014 he sold the property and closed for good. It was the earliest example of craft barbecue coming to Houston that I am aware of."

Ray Riley - Meat Center Manager - Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center

"I have enjoyed BBQ my entire life.  However, I didn't realize how special the BBQ Community was until we started our TAMU Barbecue Program and met all the people involved in this BBQ Community. Many of these people have reached out to us and this has been a huge benefit to our TAMU Barbecue Program.  The BBQ Community is an unbelievable network.  I have enjoyed and appreciate being a part of it.  I hope TAMU has contributed as much as we have received in this relationship."

Bradley Robinson - Chud's BBQ / LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue - Austin, Texas

"When I first moved to Texas back in December 2012 I was roaming around the city getting to know Austin and trying all the local cuisine. After watching no reservations I really wanted to go to Franklin but wasn't prepared to stand in that huge line, so instead I  headed over to JMueller BBQ, but when I got there the sign said la barbecue and it just so happened to be their opening week. Standing in that line I had medium to low expectations with the assumption that I preferred my beef medium rare, but after taking that first burnt end bite while placing my order I knew that my perspective of food was about to change. The tray of food I had that day truly change the course of my life, and after getting a pit tour with John Lewis and realizing the simplicity yeah authenticity of craft bbq I just had to learn the ways of Texas bbq."

Misty Roegels - Roegels Barbecue - Houston/Katy, Texas

"I think for me is when we attended our first Houston Barbecue Festival. Russell and I tried a lot of different styles of food. It really opened our eyes that there are other ways to do barbecue.  We also met Dr. Jeff Savell, Ray Riley, and Dr. Davey Griffin there. That was really the beginning of our new journey in barbecue. Russell and I traveled all over trying different places. I guess we were both surprised at the different flavors there were. As you know we were in a franchise for twelve years, you have to follow their recipes. At that point, we took a look at our product and decided we wanted to do things differently. We met John Brotherton shortly after that. He also introduced us to many other people in the industry. The bbq family is amazing. We all need a little help every now and then, so it’s nice to have people to call on. Sometimes it’s nice to just chat and talk things out that others wouldn’t understand. I wish we all had more time to spend with one another."

Steven Rossler - Rossler's Blue Cord Barbecue - Killeen/Temple, Texas

"As a boy living in West Texas, I can remember everything was so far away. Our cousins predominately lived in Houston, so we usually would travel to Inks Lake State Park, Garner State Park, or other places in the Texas Hill County. My Dad was a BIG fan of smoked chicken, so we ALWAYS stopped at Cooper’s BBQ in Llano, TX. I can remember rolling into town and that smell of bbq was out of this world. Every time I smell it, it reminds me of all the amazing memories our family shared growing up."

Matt Rushworth - Matty Boy Barbecue Catering - Southeastern Ontario, Canada

"When I traveled to Texas in 2018 I messaged Louie Mueller Barbecue on IG and asked Wayne if he was around and could give a pit tour (or ask whoever was around to let me see a bit of the behind the scenes). I did it with all the places I was visiting not expecting too many responses.

When I got there Wayne joined me for lunch, took me around the pits, introduced the crew, talked about the building, his family, and history. It was about 90 minutes all-told. We talked about why it was that barbecue was having a resurgence. The almost sense-memory evocation of our primal ancestry that barbecue elicits, combined with providing a communal space with which we can gather and break bread in a world where we find ourselves increasingly distant from one another. 

It was standing in that hot Texas sun while a 3rd generation pitmaster waxed poetic about the almost spiritual nature of barbecue that I really realized that being a random Canadian guy, by undertaking making barbecue in a way as close to that as I found in Texas, that I was really a part of something special."

Tales from the pits, a Texas BBQ Podcast

You can see the response below from Andrew Martinez and Bryan Norton. If you link off of this it's at the 33:16 mark.

Trevor Sales - Brix Barbecue - Fort Worth, Texas

"Hutchins BBQ in McKinney in maybe 2012- This was the first real Texas Barbecue joint I’d ever eaten at, being from the Midwest and all. From the moment we walked up to the line, being asked if I wanted lean or fatty (first time I’d ever been asked that), to the pit tour after myself and some friends ate. The food was great but the hospitality was next level. From that point forward I knew I wanted to be involved in the barbecue world one way or another. It was more than just a job to those folks, it was a way of life!"

Ben Sassani - Ben Sassani / BBQ Confessional

"Back in 2017 I was covering an event for Cochon555 in Austin. For those who don’t know of the event, there are 5 pigs, 5 chefs, and each chef is using the whole pig to make 5 dishes.  An amazing event to be at and there’s always some major talent there.  

At the 2017 event, Evan LeRoy and crew were one of the chef teams competing at the event.  At the time I didn’t realize he had just started a BBQ food truck in Austin and was doing some amazing things with BBQ and dishes. Long story short, Evan and crew won this event with some amazing dishes. Soon after I found out LeRoy and Lewis was 1) a food truck, and 2) a BBQ food truck.  

In early 2018 I finally went by the truck while in Austin and got a chance to try the food.  The burger, brisket, all the sides, and realized the world of BBQ is more than just the proteins we’re used to.  Yes, those are important, but the dishes and sides coming from places like LeRoy & Lewis are elevating the world of BBQ. 

Since then so many other places have stepped up their sides, sausages, and dessert game, the landscape of BBQ is completely different than what it was even 4-5 years ago. That point is proven further in the Texas Monthly Top 50 list for 2021 vs. 2017.  LeRoy & Lewis landed in the top 5 and there are so many places on the top 10 and the rest of the list who weren’t on the list or even open during the last list.  

The game of BBQ has been elevated strongly over the last few years because of innovative people like LeRoy & Lewis, and I honestly can’t wait to see how much more elevated it’ll be in the coming years."

Kevin Sandridge - BBQ Beat Podcast

"I’d say the work that Jon Jackson is doing with Comfort Farms in Milledgeville, GA. It’s an acute Veterans crisis care operation That uses farming to provide veterans with a mission-centered objective. They focus on heritage-breed animals and vegetables. Very impressive. I did an interview with Jon some time back that you can check out HERE."

Dr. Jeff Savell - Texas A & M University Distinguished Professor, Meat Science & E. M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in Animal Science

"Me purchasing Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue started everything we do with Texas Barbecue, our freshmen class, ANSC 117, Texas Barbecue, Barbecue Summer Camp, and Camp Brisket. That was the pivotal point in our program. Here is the foreword I wrote for Robb for his revised edition of Legends of Texas Barbecue."

Ernest Servantes - Burnt Bean Co. - Seguin, Texas

I always loved food because I’m a chef, so BBQ was always something that I had a passion for since I was little. So my outlet was BBQ. Some play the guitar while others did sports. What got my true passion was the ability to cook amazing food in its purest form with live fire understanding coals and wood fire.

Pat Sharpe - Texas Monthly Food Writer / Restaurant Critic

"It was a cold day early in 1997. As the food writer for Texas Monthly, I was part of a five-person team eating its way across the state for the magazine’s first fifty-best-barbecue-joints-in-Texas story. I had driven hours out to Eagle Lake to check out a dinky little hole-in-the-wall named Austin’s, and it was then, standing in line, that that I realized just how much barbecue is about the dedication to pure craft and what a unifying force Texas barbecue is for people from all walks of life. There were about twenty-five of us waiting (Franklin Barbecue’s three-hour marathon waits were decades in the future) and we spent our time trading tips and just plain visiting (nobody was on their smartphone because they didn’t exist yet; we actually talked to each other). In my review, I wrote, “When a building is this grim, the food had better be good, and it is. The serving line is so narrow that two people can’t pass; the only seating area is a chain-link-fenced concrete slab outdoors by the highway. But your plate is loaded with great, moist pecan-smoked brisket . . .” and I went on to detail the rest. In the intervening two decades, other places have replaced Austin’s on our list, but I still remember that day when I really understood what Texas barbecue was all about. You can see it HERE."

Jill Silva - James Beard Award winner and @flatland_kc contributor. Former food editor at The Kansas City Star for nearly three decades (covering the city’s most iconic food) and recently contributed an essay in Adrian Miller’s “Black Smoke.”

It’s hard not to love barbecue. But I have to admit I love barbecue people even more than brisket with a perfect smoke ring or ribs that fall off the bone. There are so many remarkable and passionate people who have come into my life through barbecue, but early in my writing career I was lucky to become friends with Ardie Davis (who has been inducted into the American Royal Barbeque Hall of Fame), aka Remus Powers. His folksy voice has been the heart, soul and conscience of an American culinary art form that has nurtured a competitive barbecue circuit seeking to celebrate and encourage camaraderie as much as one-upmanship. His proudest accomplishment! The oath he administers before major KCBS competitions. “I’m a firm believer in rituals and ceremony, the kind that bring us together with humanity. You don’t have too much of that anymore,” he told me for a story about his induction in 2016. Through his generosity, I have been welcomed into a unique food community. Sharing lunch at a local BBQ joint with Ardie continues to be one of my favorite things in the world! #BBQBFF.

Brandon Simpson - Jazzy B's Diner - BBQ - Lee's Summit, Missouri

"I had always been cooking all types of cuisine but the BBQ part really erupted for me when I started having a lot of cook outs at my house. And some friends and non friends started to want to buy my sauce and I found more and more people were coming over that I didn't invite. LOL  But really just the encouragement from that and the fact I alway want to be the best at what I do.  That's what turned my hobby int passion to my life of BBQ. " 

Tabb Singleton Phatt Tabb's BBQ - Idabel, Oklahoma

"I was first introduced to bbq as a small child and still to this day it brings me back into the time of the day. It was the smell of smoke coming from a bbq put my dad built out of an old 55 gallon drum barrel and he was cooking a Turkey for Thanksgiving and this was my first time being outside as a child while my dad was cooking....and just the smell had me hooked and then as I got closer to the pit I got mesmerized by how the fire moving. And still to this day sometimes I catch a certain smoke smell coming from the pits and it reminds me of that day I got hooked on bbq."

David Slaughter - Slaughter's BBQ Oasis - Sulphur Springs, Texas

"I have always been intrigued with BBQ. Growing up around my grandfather who was a huge BBQ enthusiast, It was a huge part of my family. My parents actually dabbled in some competition BBQ in the ’90s before BBQ really blew up. Fast forward… I was in the check-out lane at a local grocery store one day, I glanced at the cover of a Texas Monthly magazine and the cover read…”The Greatest BBQ story ever told” I had not a clue who the two guys were on the front (Aaron Franklin and John Mueller) of the magazine.

I got through the story day dreaming of one day getting to visit one of these BBQ spots in Austin, TX. Particularly J Mueller BBQ (at the time). My wife and I were passing through Austin early one morning on the way back home from a family vacation in San Antonio, I said to her… “I wonder if we can call in a to-go order from a BBQ joint that I recently read about in Texas Monthly magazine” we called, placed our order, drove to basically just a plot of land in the middle of Austin, TX. Which sat a concession-type food trailer, a large enclosed BBQ pit, and lots of picnic tables. At first glance, I thought we were in the wrong spot. As we got out of the car, there were tons of people gathered around, live music, cold kegs of beer, and outstanding BBQ. It took me a while to absorb everything that I was seeing… I’d never seen any type of food business that was operating in this type of setting.

I couldn’t process the fact that this was someone's job, it looked so fun and exciting! As we made our way over to grab our food, we got in the car, unwrapped our food that was in butcher paper, I couldn’t believe the quality of the BBQ. I had never had BBQ up until that moment that tasted the way John’s did. It was the Ah-Ha! moment for me. It inspired me at that moment to hopefully one day open my own BBQ joint in a similar manner. In late 2013 I started experimenting with homemade BBQ sauce recipes, which eventually led to me setting up a booth at our local farmers market on Saturday evenings peddling small jars of our sauces… 8 years later, we still use the same recipes at our BBQ location today. Just amazes me that something as simple as impulsively purchasing a magazine based on the title alone can change a person's life, it has certainly changed mine. Would I be in the BBQ business had I never picked up that article? Who knows? It certainly has impacted my life in ways that I never dreamed of."

Photo provided by David Slaughter

Marc Smith - The Patriotic Pig - North Richland Hills, Texas

"Three people helped me get into BBQ. I first took a 2-day BBQ 101 class down in Houston which was taught by a competition pitmaster named Konrad “Teddy Bear” Haskins. Shortly after that class, I flew up to Illinois twice and took two different classes at 17th Street BBQ. The first class was called Business of BBQ and the second class was their annual Whole Hog Extravaganza class. Both classed were taught be the legendary Mike Mills and his daughter Amy Mills. I met several other ptitmasters up there that I’m still in contact with. There is indeed a BBQ Brotherhood going on behind the scenes which is really cool. Finally, I took a class at Premier Grilling in Frisco taught by Todd David from Cattleack BBQ. I’m addicted to his BBQ and ate it every week when I worked in IT since he was less than a mile away from my office."

Blake Stoker - Blake's BBQ - Martin, Tennessee

"Walking into Louie Mueller through that screen door, smelling the smells and seeing the smoke-stained walls. Seeing the people in line and the menu written on butcher paper on the wall. Eating the peppery brisket and beef rib and everything else. Seeing the brick pits in the back. The full experience."

Tuffy Stone - Author | Storyteller

"I have had many mentors and great bites of bbq in my life, but trying to identify one singular moment that made me realize there was something unique going on with bbq, is hard to place. For me, it was an accumulation of experiences that happened in my bbq journey. Perhaps, the surprise that I felt when I made my first attempts at making barbecue and it was not good. Having started off in French kitchen and fine dining, I was not expecting to find this cooking technique, to have so many challenges and so much nuance. I remember trying a rib cooked by Johnny Trigg, one day, and thinking to myself, “I have never made a rib, that good.”

As I went off the bbq deep-end, as I often say, barbecue made the world so much smaller for me, as I became friends with people, from all over the world, that shared the same love for cooking with fire, that I have. I often say that barbecue is the friendliest cuisine, that is historically taking large cuts of tough meats and coaxing something great out of them and serving to large groups of people. Often cooked at family reunions and picnics. In 2010, we went to Kuwait and cooked for thousands of troops, and I will never forget the impact that the barbecue had on the men and women, who were keeping us safe. I wish I had one singular experience that made me realize how special barbecue is, but I guess I am lucky to have had many. Although, I can still remember the smell of the turkeys that my Grandmother used to smoke on her bullet smokers, outside her kitchen door. I wish I could be of more help!"

Tarik Sykes - "BBQ with Rik Rik"

"For me like a lot of other BBQ PIT MASTERS, it was FIRE! Just being a FIREBUG started it all! Then it was People and Places: My family in North Carolina at Family Reunions seeing my family outback cooking on grills or bringing in pitmasters to cook for the family I always found my way to the grill. Now I put the love of making my own BBQ with Photography/Videography together and enjoying capturing the BBQ Culture has been a fun a great way to express my creative vision!"

Ian Timmons - Tom & Bingo's Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que - Lubbock, Texas

"I got into the BBQ game in 2009.  What was supposed to be a summer of work turned into a passionate career. To be completely honest, I had no idea the vastness of the bbq world when I started.  On my first day working, someone called in after our rush complaining that I threw change at them.  I nervously gave the phone to Dwayne (my future father-in-law) after the angry customer gave me a brief summary.  I worked for bigger corporations up until that point where the customer was always right and I thought surely I was one and done.  But Dwayne lost his fucking mind on this customer saying things like “oh come on we were busy and it was his first day. Don’t ever come back in here with that bullshit again.” The angry customer responded that a well-known news broadcaster was her cousin and she’s going to call him to do a bad story about Tom & Bingo’s. Dwayne responded with “oh that fucking drunk is your cousin?!  Now I know where you get it from! Why don’t you call him and tell him to kiss my ass”, as he hung up.  He told me not to worry and he went right back to his normal duties without skipping a beat, completely unbothered.  I was in shock and I knew this was a different world.  

The next couple of months of summer, I learned the ins and outs of Tom & Bingo’s.  It was truly like working in your grandmother's kitchen. Everyone was family, and if you came in there not knowing the deal, thinking you knew how it should go, Dwayne would put you right in your place and you damn sure didn’t want to get on his bad side. Customers would come in just to talk and gossip about stuff around town.  It was like a time machine to a 1950’s meat market.  I fell in love with those interactions and that type of customer service. I hadn’t seen that type of customer service in real life, only in older movies.  That’s what drew me in. It wasn’t until after I bought Tom & Bingo’s in 2017 that I discovered the giant bbq world through Instagram.  Up until then, I hadn’t even eaten any other bbq other than Tom& Bingo’s.  Back then eating other bbq was blasphemy. Still to this day, we want to have that type of old-school customer service, sans negative interactions if possible. Yet sometimes it happens.  And yes, sometimes I still respond with a “Burger King is right down the road if you want it your way,” just for old time's sake.  Anyways, I hope that answered your question."

Jack Timmons - Jack's BBQ - Seattle, Washington

"What really got me going was Daniel Vaughn (@BBQSnob) who started writing about Central Texas-style BBQ in greater detail.  I discovered Aaron Franklin via him – and that really changed the game for me.  And then the BBQ Summer Camp in the Meat Sciences Dept of Texas A&M, which I also discovered via Daniel Vaughn."

John Troxell - John Troxel Photography - Fifth Flavors

"I first met Moo’s Craft BBQ at Smorgasburg in Los Angeles in either 2018 or 2019. I reached out to them to photograph them and they said yes. I was just starting my journey into my new world as well as them literally blowing up at that exact same moment.  The lines were long and the energy was incredible. People were literally freaking over Central Style Texas bbq. There have been old-school bbq joints in Los Angeles but nothing like this. This was the first time I saw firsthand what was occurring."

Daniel Vaughn - Texas Monthly BBQ Editor - His quote is at 25:38 of our chat HERE.

“It was Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. I went on a central Texas road trip with a friend. We started on a Friday night with a couple of decent places and then we started Saturday morning, our first stop was Louie Mueller and we were sitting on opposite sides of the table sharing a tray of barbecue and I didn’t even really know back then that they were famous for the beef rib so I don’t even think we got one. I think we got a pork rib and a link of sausage and a slice of brisket because we had six places that we were going to go to that day and several the next day as well. We just took a bite of that and were like ‘oh wow, this is what everybody’s been talking about.’ This is now a different kind of food. We were using Texas Monthly as our guide, I wasn’t working for them at all, and I realized this is why they are putting these places on the list, they really are that much different and that much better than anything at the time we had in Dallas. That road trip was in 2006 and yeah, it was really that morning that Louie Mueller. Afterwards we kept getting hit after hit after hit. There was Kreuz Market, Smitty’s, and Black’s

Miguel Vidal - Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ - Austin, Texas

"When My wife and I flew out to LA to visit some family friends almost 3 years ago now, We met up with Danny Castillo now the owner of Heritage BBQ and went to Smorgasburg in downtown LA. We were there to enjoy all the food but specifically to eat Andrew and Michelle’sbbq,  owners of Moo's Craft BBQ.  I saw this couple who not so long before my trip to LA visited Valentina’s. They so graciously praised our food said that we were an inspiration. Well, here I was with a chance to try their bbq and damn. Every bite I took I was really enjoying. The kicker was when tasted their pork ribs, I looked at my wife and said, these ribs are better than mine.  That is when I knew BBQ had gone to another level and not just in Texas." 

Shawn Walchef - Cali BBQ - San Diego, California

"I realized barbecue was unique when I learned that BBQ is about family and love. When you ask the barbecue community for help, someone is always around to answer your call.

Before my Cali BBQ restaurant started serving barbecue in 2008, I met my BBQ mentor Gene Goycochea. I asked him for help transforming our Cali Comfort restaurant into Cali Comfort BBQ. The KCBS legend did everything he could to get us up and running into a full-fledged operation, including lending us his Ole Hickory Smoker so we could start firing up slow-smoked barbecue in San Diego. To this day he is still a trusted advisor and close friend.

The same feeling of love and family struck me when I first met the legendary Mike Mills from 17th Street BBQ during the 2012 NBBQA Conference in San Diego. Cali BBQ was privileged to host him and a group of conference attendees during their BBQ Bus tour. I couldn’t believe how interested he was in our business and how gracious he was answering all the questions I threw his way. 

I was lucky enough to spend time with Mike and Amy Mills again at the 2017 NBBQA Conference in Fort Worth. The father and daughter agreed to share their amazing story on my podcast and once again graciously answered all the questions I had about the restaurant business and life in general. When Mike died it felt like a family member died. 

The barbecue family is unique because it is truly one big family."

Daniel Weinstock - Maple Block Meat Co. - Culver City, California

"My dad taught me the art of building a fire at an early age, I have vivid memories from when I was 6 or 7 years old and I am as captivated today as I was then. We would go off exploring in the woods on overnight backpacking trips, typically exploring for new places to fish, any type of fishing really, but mainly fly fishing.  As I got older we would explore more adventurous areas and terrain and when I was 12 years old we did a week long backpacking and canoe trip outside of Alberta, Canada.

By then I knew what to look for — good kindling, dry wood to burn, the importance of airflow to maximize oxygen — and I had gained the necessary level of patience to properly feed the fire to keep it ripping hot.  Typically I was trying to ensure that the fire I was building for us did not produce too much smoke and I was always looking out good dry wood to use as fuel, but on this trip I remember my dad surprising me and showing what happens when you intentionally create smoke… and not just smoke, but “the right” smoke at “the right” temperature and how it could transform the trout we caught for dinner.  I was mesmerized and ultimately obsessed with this new art form.

We built small makeshift smokers out of tree limps and branches, he showed me what happens when you soak some of the dry wood we collected in the river we were by and then added it to our fires. Making sure the cleaned whole fish were securely propped up at the right distance from the flames and containing and concentrating the sweet smoke so that it transformed the fish into something tender, smokey, sweet and flakey. Later that summer we built a more permanent smoker at home that didn’t work out so well and ended up getting the old standby, Weber Smoky Mountain.  We used it primarily for fish and occasionally chicken and turkey.  

Then one day when I was about 17 were visiting some old friends of his who were living in Texas and they took us to Smitty’s in Lockhart…. Apparently when we walked in the first words out of my mouth were, “holy shit”.  It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen — old brick pits with steel leads and firepits that had burned deep divots into the ground, the smoke that permeated through the entire place, charcoal looking “icicles” in the rafters above… Someone working there asked if I wanted to try something and  then proceeded to pull a brisket out, carve off a small slice, set it directly on some butcher paper and then slid it over to me. It was the most honest, gracious moment of hospitality I had ever witnessed - they were sharing their craft with me and while I knew nothing about smoking brisket then I knew that there was a lot of love, time and tremendous skill that went into making it and I wanted to learn how to do it myself."

Great memories. Thank you for the opportunity to take a moment to think back.

Jonny White - Goldee's Barbecue - Fort Worth, Texas

"Benji's customer service at Franklin was when I knew barbecue was unique and something different!" 

Robin Wong - Blood Bros. BBQ - Bellaire, Texas / Las Vegas, Nevada

"I didn't get into the BBQ business because of a passion for BBQ. I got into BBQ because we enjoyed throwing parties. We've always said we got into BBQ because we wanted to bring our Backyard BBQ to the masses. Good Food. Good Music. Good Beer. Good Friends. So that's what we started. Our POP-UPs were called Beats + BBQ + Brews. We did that for 5 years. Shared a good time with friends. After 5 years, we thought we might be able to take that idea and make it permanent.

We had met and made friends with a lot of good people in the BBQ scene by that time, and their acceptance and praise motivated us to keep going. We look back now and see how subpar our products were when we first started, but we always strove for improvement and still do to this day.

To answer your question: What was the barbecue bite OR barbecue joint OR person in barbecue that made you realize that something unique was going on here? I don't think you can say that there was a specific bite or person that made me realize something special was going on. I believe it was the whole movement that really opened my eyes. We would meet people that would drive hours just to come to try our food. Then at HouBBQFest, seeing the crowds and people coming from all over the US... It was special. I remember trying Wayne Mueller's brisket at HouBBQFest one year and thinking... man, we got a ways to go... It was perfect. Also, I've had the chance to spend a good amount of time with Rodney Scott... His whole hog at the second Southern Smoke blew my mind. Him winning a James Beard Award was a game-changer for me. It made me think that BBQ finally got respect in the culinary world.

Today is the 3 Year Anniversary of our restaurant, and being able to look back on all that we've been able to accomplish in that time is astonishing to us. We're extremely blessed to be recognized and appreciated by our peers and the public for doing something that we truly enjoy."

Jordan Wright - Wright's Barbecue - Bentonville/Johnson - Arkansas

"Moist Brisket from original Salt Lick location in 2014; Killen's Beef Rib in 2015; Hutchins in McKinney brisket 2015 fall; Louie Mueller brisket and beef rib spring 2016; Freedmen's (Evan Leroy) everything spring of 2016; Heim BBQ everything in fall of 2016; and Franklin brisket winter 2016. Every time I have been to a place that sets its sights on being the best it motivates me to keep seeing things differently and to keep learning. There can never be a time when learning stops in this world, it has to be a constant pursuit of the perfect plate, tray, meal every day! Seeing each place take so much pride in putting out the very best barbecue they could put out and having a common goal of excellence drew me to BBQ then and it drives us every day here."

Kelly Yandell - Kelly Yandell Photography - Banada Cafe

"When I look back over my life now, a shocking number of the great moments of my life had BBQ in them. My parents hosted barbecues for their favorite local political candidates. I met my husband at a BBQ cook off in the Astrodome parking lot.  We celebrated our engagement, just the two of us, at a little BBQ joint in Burnett, Texas. My work with Foodways Texas and Texas A&M has been so meaningful. I spent three years on a very special BBQ journey with my own son when we had BBQ together every Thursday. But the most important BBQ moment…the memory that probably started the gravitational pull, was opening the door at Callaway’s BBQ in downtown Wichita Falls when I was young. I’d open the door and get hit with a blast of the best scents in the world right there on the street. As I walked down the line on the left side of the narrow lunchroom, my mouth would start watering and Mr. Callaway would be at the block taking orders and chopping meat for sandwiches. That sound, the chopping of brisket, is still one of my favorite sounds in the world. And he’d greet us by our names, my brother and myself, like we mattered, though we were just kids. And that mattered to me. I remember my order…I loved a two meat plate with turkey and sausage, mustard potato salad and barbecue beans. Always Buttered Texas Toast. I’d give the world for one more meal there with my family. Those smells and sounds and that narrow downtown lunch staple….those are probably the memories which crystallized my love of Texas Barbecue and my confidence, which lasts to this day, that BBQ people are the nicest and hardest working people in Texas".

Ben Yanto - Photographer - Ben Yanto Visuals

"My first true bbq experience was with Brickvault Brewery & Barbecue. For the longest time, I thought this chain of bbq places (not naming names) was where it was at. Brickvault had definitely opened my eyes to the barbecue world. I was simply blown away from the brisket, smoked turkey, sausages, and ribs. I seriously owe it to Phil Moellering for introducing me to the bbq community. It's because of him, I've gotten to work with Mill Scale Metalworks and eventually befriended some amazing people."

Joe Zavala - Zavala's Barbecue - Fort Worth, Texas

"My Dad."