As part of the sixth generation to run his family’s mortician business, Blue Broussard didn’t need to seek another career path—but the barbecue bug bit him just the same. After years cooking for friends and family, Broussard finally opened a barbecue trailer in 2015, which led to the opening of his brick-and-mortar, 1701 Barbecue, in Beaumont in December 2020. Broussard has been praised by Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn for quenching the Beaumont brisket drought, and his joint even earned a spot on the 2021 Top 50 list after less than a year in business.
Tell us about the first person who taught you about barbecue.
I know the question is pertaining to barbecue specifically, but my first cooking experiences were simply centered around food in general. I grew up in a family where my mom and dad both worked, but my mother made sure we had a home-cooked meal every evening. There was always a meat and at least two sides for supper. Dinnertime became a ceremonial ending to the day—something for us to look forward to. Beyond that, our family and friends got together on weekends, and those gatherings always revolved around food. The meals would be everything from grilled meats or fried fish to gumbo and crawfish. Around the time I was in high school, my family started hosting events at our family farm in Fannett, where I grew up. We would serve primarily steak dinners for different civic organizations, churches, and businesses in our community. I learned a lot from my dad and our family friends about cooking a good steak over open coals. It’s something I still pride myself on to this day. I’m regularly asked how many briskets I’ve cooked in my lifetime, and my response has often been that I’ve probably cooked more steaks than briskets over the years.
The barbecue bug bit me about 2010. I started cooking a lot for family and friends at house parties. This increasing interest in barbecue led to a very good friend of mine, David Thompson, and me owning a barbecue trailer from 2015 to 2019. We learned a lot together—from the cooking processes to working as a team—and the experience was extremely valuable. They always say there’s no substitute for hard work, and we worked hard. Cooking in the trailer with David helped me build the barbecue basics I continue to rely on, and attempt to improve, to this day.
That said, when it comes to the barbecue 1701 is putting out now, I’m pretty much self-taught. I’ve always been the kind of person who, once I’m really interested in something, wants to know everything there is to know. I’m always seeking information. I’ve watched more YouTube videos, read more books, and dug deep into barbecue blogs trying to pick up any additional information I can.
Do you remember a backyard, a barbecue joint, or an experience that ignited your barbecue obsession?
I think what really got me hooked was seeing what was going on in Austin at the time. This was about 2010, and Franklin was starting to get a lot of attention, which really got the wheels turning in my head. I had never seen people respond to a restaurant in that way. As I kept up with barbecue across the state over the next few years, I just got sucked into the whole thing. I always thought it would be neat for Beaumont to have a place like that.
What message are you trying to share with your customers through your food?
We want folks to know we’re working hard to produce the best barbecue we can. For us, that means using the best ingredients and not taking any shortcuts in the cooking process. We also want people to know we’re not afraid of hard work and will constantly be aiming to improve. This style of cooking is about more than just the food. It sounds corny, but this is a lifestyle for us—from the music playing through the speakers at the restaurant to the vibe customers feel when they walk in the door. This is how we live our lives, and I feel like a lot of our customers can connect to 1701 in more ways than just the food.
As a professional pitmaster, are you a BBQ Freak just like the rest of us? What makes you a BBQ Freak?
I was so passionate about barbecue that I opened our restaurant in the middle of the pandemic—not really an ideal time to start a new business. I think it’s safe to answer “Yes, I am” in this category.
When was the last time you ate someone else’s barbecue?
The last time was at Troubadour Festival [in Celina]. There were over forty barbecue joints represented at that event. We tried to sample as many as we could.
To this day, I still haven’t been to a lot of the barbecue joints across the state, but I hope to change that soon.
What’s the most surprising barbecue dish you’ve eaten?
It would have to be one of the creative sausages our good friend Bill Dumas, of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue and Liberty Barbecue, has created over the years. This man has a deep appreciation for the history of barbecue, and he is always pushing the boundaries of how creative sausage making can be.
What’s the best beverage to wash down barbecue?
If it’s lunchtime on a weekday, I’m a Dr Pepper man. If it’s the weekend or we’re cooking at the house, a cold beer out of the ice chest.
What’s a tool you use in cooking that might not seem like an obvious barbecue tool?
I’m going to answer with foil. Foil is an obvious barbecue tool, but what might not be as obvious is that we wrap our briskets with it as well. A lot of guys use butcher paper, and it works great for them. Back in my food-trailer days, we always used foil to wrap. When we opened 1701, we tried paper, but it just didn’t feel right to us. There are pros and cons to both, but I feel we put out a better product wrapping with foil. Whatever you choose to wrap with, it’s about the timing of when you wrap a brisket, in my opinion, and how long you can rest it. More on that another time.
What recommendations do you have for someone new to Texas ’cue?
If you’re ordering at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask the meat cutters/slicers and/or servers questions about the menu items. I get the sense that for someone new walking into a bustling, counter service–style barbecue joint, it can be a little overwhelming. The folks who work at 1701 specifically are all there to answer questions, inform customers, and make you feel welcome. We work at a barbecue restaurant; we like talking shop. Just ask us.
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