Flores Barbecue left the Hill County town of Whitney in February for what owner Michael Wyont hoped would prove greener pastures in Fort Worth. A new Flores food truck opened at the Trailhead at Clearfork development in May, ahead of a planned brick-and-mortar at the same location. It was big news for Texas barbecue and for Fort Worth, which stood to add a Top 50 barbecue joint to an already rapidly growing barbecue scene. But now, just a few months later, Wyont has announced he’s leaving the business and taking the name with him.
“The big city I don’t think is for me,” Wyont told me Friday, seeming relieved to have a break from the grueling schedule of a pitmaster. “It’s nice to step back and spend some time with my family and spend some time with my son, which I haven’t been able to do because of this barbecue thing.” His decision is unexpected, but he’s at peace with his choice and stresses that the decision to split from Cassco, the developer of the Trailhead at Clearfork, is amicable. “There’s nothing sour for sure,” he said. “It’s in good hands right now.”
Chef Lou Lambert has acted as a chef consultant to Cassco throughout the restaurant development process. He brought Flores Barbecue onto the team and echoed Wyont’s comments that the split was a mutual decision. Through a press release, Lambert said, “We owe much appreciation to Michael for the way he helped us shape the mission and concept of a Tex-Mex barbecue restaurant that will take full advantage of its unique setting on the Trinity River.”
Cassco plans to continue a Tex-Mex barbecue concept at the same location, operating the same hours and using the same smoker. It just won’t be Flores Barbecue after the branding is updated to reflect a new name—Campo Smokehouse. When the Flores move was announced early this year, an opening of a brick-and-mortar in early 2020 was the hope. As of last week, there are no signs of construction on the site, but the design is nearly complete, according to the development team. A 2020 opening is still the goal for the permanent home for Campo Smokehouse, but it will be ready later in the year than originally planned.
The team Wyont leaves behind is run by Chris Reale, who helped Wyont with the Fort Worth transition. Pitmaster John Willems has been with the operation for several months and will continue his duties for Campo Smokehouse. For the past fourteen years, Reale has worked with Lambert in various capacities, including at the Lambert’s location in Fort Worth that closed in 2012. Reale knows barbecue too, having helped Lambert cook whole steers at a few Vaca y Vino events, and he’s cooked his share of hogs for other events around the state. Neither of those are planned for the upcoming Campo Smokehouse menu, at least not yet. “Everything is totally the same,” Reale stressed, when asked about the menu and cooking processes at the rebranded truck. “We’re just moving forward.”
A return to Whitney for Flores Barbecue would seem the happiest ending to Wyont’s saga, but that doesn’t appear to be coming soon. He assured me his immediate plans don’t include barbecue, but added, “I don’t know what the future holds.” For now he’s happy to have a break from barbecue and the big city, saying “I was just kinda not feeling it.” Wyont isn’t sure if his next job will even be in the barbecue business, but he rhetorically asked, “Do I want this to be the end if Flores Barbecue?” before answering his own question: “Absolutely not.”
The headline on this article has been updated to reflect that Flores will remain open during the transition.