We knew that we were onto something big in hiring Daniel Vaughn as Texas Monthly's Barbecue Editor. We just didn't realize how big.
(Okay, actually we did.)
Vaughn's new gig was noted everywhere from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Bend Bulletin to the CBC and KERA (the latter of which made the mistake of spelling "Vaughn" the Stevie Ray and Jimmie way).
The hiring was also news—"A" section, not "Dining and Wine"—in the New York Times. The Times' Manny Fernandez sat down for lunch with Vaughn at Lockhart Smokehouse:
Mr. Vaughn, 35, gave polite but direct instructions to the man with the knife: a few slices and burnt ends of beef brisket, pork spareribs, jalapeño sausage, an end-cut pork chop, some of the clod (beef shoulder), three slices of smoked turkey. Before long, a $50 pile of Texas barbecue held together by sheets of butcher paper sat before him on the counter — he was ordering for himself and three others — and the cashier asked if he wanted any sides.
“No,” he replied. “We got pork.”...
Asked at the counter if he ever got tired of barbecue, Mr. Vaughn replied, without hesitation, “Not good barbecue.”
"The response has been overwhelming," Vaughn told Eat My Words after the announcement. "At the Houston BBQ Festival [last Sunday] there were literally dozens of strangers coming up to offer congratulations."
Vaughn's Twitter account, @BBQSnob, also added more than 1,500 followers in the days after the announcement, and recently passed 10,000 total. Vaughn continued:
Via social media, I am now keenly aware that I have the best/coolest/most enviable job on Earth. I also now know that the I will be held personally responsible for every selection and non-selection in the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list. That sound you hear is [Texas Monthly food editor)] Pat Sharpe's giant sigh of relief.
Vaughn officially starts on April 15; the TMBBQ Top 50 gets unveiled in the June issue. Monday, he posted his "Five Barbecue Myths That Should Be Dispelled" for CNN's Eatocracy site, including "Grilling=BBQ," "Fat is evil" and "'Falling off the bone' is a positive achievement."
A few of our favorite reactions to the news:
1. It's the best job in journalism. Maybe even the best job in America.
Until recently, the best job in journalism may have been BuzzFeed animals editor (and they're still hiring an associate). Before that, as Scott Reitz of the Dallas Observer noted, it might have been William Breathes, "the Denver Westword "ganja writer" (i.e., pot critic).
But now everyone but vegans and a few poor saps in Carolina or KC agrees: this is the best job. In fact, never have so many near-identical tweets been written in response to one hiring announcement.
Many tweeters dubbed it their own dream job, or wished they'd known about the opening. But all due respect, you haven’t done the work. As Fernandez wrote:
Mr. Vaughn estimates that, since he began keeping track in 2007, he has eaten at more than 600 barbecue joints in the country, with more than 500 of those being in Texas. In five days last week, he had eaten barbecue at six locations.
Many folks have also volunteered to be Vaughn's intern. Just remember: internships can often include lots of thankless tasks--though I was joking when I tweeted "it's all expense reports and sauce tasting" (and Daniel made it clear that he takes his critical obligations to eat even the worst barbecue seriously).
2. It's a new era for food journalism.
Bon Appetit’s Sam Dean suggested Vaughn's position was bound to kick off a new era of foodie specialization:
Historians will speak of the day that Texas Monthly hired a barbecue editor as the first day of the new era. Before Vaughn, there were "food critics" and "restaurant editors"; after Vaughn, the world of hyper-specialized food savants was born, a world of food journalists ruthlessly working their one microbeat until every atom of their chosen field has been reported on, eaten, and reviewed.
Dean parodied one paragraph in particular of Fernandez’s story, speculating on the Twitter handles, blog names, chosen footwear/t-shirts and previous employment for such jobs as “Portland Monthly’s first naturally fermented pickled editor, a position that exists at no other magazine in America."
Some of the others: "Milwaukee Journal's first cheese curd editor," "Albuquerque Magazine's first foodstuffs-made-out-of-masa editor," and "Southern Living's first heirloom grains editor."
Unacceptably, however, Dean's story was illustrated with a picture of baked, grilled, heavily sauced "barbecued (sic) ribs."