Pitmaster Interviews

Attempt to discover arcane secrets.
September 17, 2014

Interview: Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que

Owner/Pitmaster: Hometown Bar-B-Que; Opened 2013Age: 42Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: Oak and CherryBilly Durney is all New York, but he knows where to go in Texas to find great barbecue. This past week his restaurant Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, Brooklyn celebrated its

September 10, 2014

Interview: Jimmy Harris of David’s Barbecue

Owner/Pitmaster: David’s Barbecue; Opened 1988Age: 49Smoker: Wood-fired Rotisserie SmokerWood: HickoryJimmy Harris doesn’t have much time for barbecue reviewers. “The real judge is that cash register.” And it hasn’t let him down for over two decades since he and his dad opened the

September 3, 2014

Interview: Prause Family of Prause Meat Market

Gary, Mark, Kathy, and Brian PrauseOwners: Prause Meat Market; Opened 1890’sAge: Gary Prause (60), Brian Prause (59), Kathy Prause (55), Mark Prause, pitmaster (51)Smoker: Wood-fired brick pitWood: OakPrause (pronounced Prowse-ey) Meat Market has been operating in La Grange for one hundred ten years. The

August 27, 2014

Interview: Seth Glaser of Opie’s BBQ

Pitmaster: Opie’s BBQ; Opened 1999Age: 27Smoker: Wood-Fired Rotisserie SmokerWood: MesquiteTodd and Kristin Ashmore are the owners of Opie’s BBQ in Spicewood. A few years ago Seth Glaser married their daughter, and shortly after he started working there. At first, it was just a

August 20, 2014

Interview: Cliff Payne of Cousins BBQ

Owner/Pitmaster: Cousins BBQ; Opened 1983Age: 59Smoker: Wood-fired Rotisserie SmokerWood: Hickory & PecanAs the name suggests, Cousins BBQ is about family. Calvin “Bootsie” Payne III opened the place on McCart Avenue in Fort Worth in 1983 along with his wife and three of his children. His son Cliff

August 13, 2014

Interview: Ricky Murray of Murray’s BBQ

Owner/ Pitmaster: Murray’s BBQ; Opened 1987Age: 58Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: Hickory and PecanRicky Murray handed me a chopped beef and hot link sandwich and lined up several bottles of hot sauce. He makes a good barbecue sauce, but he considers himself more

August 6, 2014

Interview: Bert Bunte of Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que

Owner/ Pitmaster: Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que; Opened 1980Age: 55Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: OakBert Bunte is a man of few words. When I stopped in at Zimmerhanzel’s for this interview, he tried to shove it off onto his wife Dee-Dee, but then finally

July 30, 2014

Interview: Nina Sells of Smitty’s Market

Owner: Smitty’s Market; Opened 1999Age: 64Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: OakThere’s plenty more to Smitty’s Market in Lockhart (formerly Kreuz Market) than the family split that occurred fifteen years ago. Nina Sells grew up in this barbecue joint, and

July 23, 2014

Interview: Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Barbecue

Owner/Pitmaster: Killen’s Barbecue; Opened 2014Age: 47Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired Pit, Wood-Fired Rotisserie SmokerWood: Oak, Pecan, Hickory, and MesquiteLast week, we reviewed Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland. It received one of the highest ratings on TMBBQ, which likely wasn’t enough for

July 16, 2014

Interview: Roy & Tim Hutchins of Hutchins BBQ

Owner/Pitmaster: Hutchins BBQ; Opened 1978 (current location 1991)Age: Roy 65, Tim 33Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: Pecan and OakRoy Hutchins started his family in the barbecue business in 1978 with a tiny smokehouse in Princeton, Texas. Since then his sons have been involved

July 9, 2014

Interview: Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ

Photo by Nicholas McWhirterOwner/Pitmaster: Gatlin’s BBQ; Opened 2010Age: 34Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: HickoryGreg Gatlin went from breaking up pass plays as a member of the Rice Owls to the world of corporate real estate, but he always knew he wanted to

July 2, 2014

Interview: Will Buckman of Corkscrew BBQ

Pitmaster: Corkscrew BBQ; Opened 2011Age: 35Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: Red Oak“If I’m not here, we’re closed.” That’s why Will Buckman doesn’t take many vacation days away from Corkscrew BBQ. The hours are long, which leaves just a little time each

June 25, 2014

Interview: Will Fleischman of Lockhart Smokehouse

Pitmaster: Lockhart Smokehouse, Plano; Opened 2014Age: 42Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: OakWill Fleischman has tattoos and steel hoops in his ears, but his most distinguishing feature is the beard. He’s hard to miss when behind the counter slicing, but it might be a

June 18, 2014

Interview: Lance Kirkpatrick of Stiles Switch BBQ

Pitmaster: Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew; Opened 2011Age: 44Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: Post OakLance Kirkpatrick didn’t grow up cooking barbecue. He didn’t come from a long line of barbecue cooks, but at the age of thirty-one he answered the most important newspaper ad

June 11, 2014

Interview: Steve Kapchinskie of Martin’s Place

Owner/Pitmaster: Martin’s Place; Opened 1925 (current location 1939)Age: 57Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: OakA Kapchinskie has been cooking barbecue at Martin’s Place in Bryan, Texas since 1925. That makes it older than Black’s BBQ in Lockhart and just as

June 4, 2014

Interview: Kirby Hyden of Kirby’s Barbeque

Owner/Pitmaster: Kirby’s Barbeque; opened 1991 (2007 in current location)Age: 59Smoker: Offset steel smokersWood: OakUntil Anna Nicole Smith came along, the most famous area resident of Limestone County was Cynthia Ann Parker. She was abducted from Fort Parker at a young age, and her

May 28, 2014

Interview: Joe Davidson of Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Cue

Owner/Pitmaster: Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Cue; Opened 2011Age: 52Smoker: Gas-Fired Rotisserie SmokerWood: PecanJoe Davidson has been involved in all aspects of the barbecue world. He became a successful entrepreneur when his smoker company got off the ground in the eighties. He hit his

May 21, 2014

Interview: Adrian Handsborough of Virgie’s Bar-B-Que

Photo by Nicolas McWhirterOwner/Pitmaster: Virgie’s Bar-B-Que; Opened 2005Age: 49Smoker: Wood-Fired Offset SmokerWood: Post OakOn Virgie’s website they have a brief description of their restaurant, but what has stuck with me was their promise of a “barbecure.” It’s a

May 14, 2014

Interview: Tim Rattray of The Granary

Owner/Pitmaster/Chef: The Granary; Opened 2012Age: 31Smoker: Wood-Fired Rotisserie SmokerWood: Live Oak There isn’t another barbecue joint in Texas with as many menus to deal with as The Granary. They have a lunch menu with traditional barbecue items and a rotating daily lunch special that

May 7, 2014

Interview: Nicole Davenport

Pitmaster: BBQ Pitmasters (2010), Sugar & Smoke (2012), Chopped (2012)Age: 43I visited Sugar & Smoke restaurant in Fredericksburg in early 2012. That’s the first time I was introduced to Nicole Davenport. The menu was long, with only a few items of true barbecue. When I asked

April 30, 2014

Interview: Buzzie Hughes of Buzzie’s Bar-B-Q

Photo by Robert J. LermaOwner/Pitmaster: Buzzie’s Bar-B-Q, opened 1993 (current location since 1997)Age: 54Smoker: Wood-fired smokerWood: Live OakI had just started a phone conversation with Harold “Buzzie” Hughes. “Let her rip potato chip” was his way of getting our interview kicked off. Buzzie is a man of steadfast opinions on

April 23, 2014

Interview: Steve Olson of Hidden Canyon Farm

Steve Olson from one of many NAMP videosOwner: Hidden Canyon Farm in Lyons, New YorkAuthor: Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS)If you’ve ever purchased a cut of meat then you’ve been impacted by IMPS. IMPS, or the Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications are the guidelines for most

April 16, 2014

Interview: Thomas Abramowicz of The Beast

Owner: The Beast: Maison Deviandes Fumees, opened 2014Age: 31Smoker: Wood-fired rotisserie smoker (once it’s delivered)Wood: OakI was in line for the bathroom at Hill Country BBQ Market in New York when a man who recognized me approached. He wanted to know if I could find a Texas pitmaster

April 9, 2014

Interview: John Raven PhB

Title: Commissioner of Barbecue, PhBAge: 76“Allow me to introduce myself. I am John Raven. I am the individual who has done more for barbecue than anyone else.” Those were the first three sentences in a letter I received about a year ago. It was the first letter I received

April 2, 2014

Interview: J. D. Bost of Jasper’s Bar-B-Q

Pitmaster: Jasper’s Bar-B-Q, opened 1915 (or 1918)Age: 52Smoker: Gas-fired rotisserie smokerWood: Pecan and OakAbout six weeks ago I sat down with J. D. Bost at Jasper’s Bar-B-Q in Waco. He’s the general manager of this nearly century-old barbecue restaurant on Elm Street started by an Italian immigrant. Since the

March 26, 2014

Interview: Matt Hamilton of Local Yocal Market

Owner: Local Yocal Farm to Market in McKinney, opened 2010Age: 37Matt Hamilton grew up on a ranch in southern Oklahoma, but just a few years back he was using his college degree in the corporate world. It wasn’t until 2009 that he decided to go full bore into the ranching

March 19, 2014

Interview: Ernestine Edmond of Mama E’s BBQ

Owner/Pitmaster: Mama E’s BBQ & Home Cooking, opened 2006Age: 61Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokerWood: Pecan, Oak, PearErnestine Edmond has cooked most of her life. She learned about killing and processing chickens from her mother, and her mother-in-law taught her about cleaning a fresh hog. She’s never looked at chitterlings the

March 12, 2014

Interview: Joe Riscky of Riscky’s Barbeque

Pitmaster: Riscky’s Barbeque; opened 1927Age: 38Smoker: Wood-fired rotisserie smokerWood: Post oakI sat down for lunch at the original location of Riscky’s Barbeque on Azle in Fort Worth. It sits just north of the Stockyards in a building from the fifties. Joe Riscky, great grandson to and named after the founder

March 5, 2014

Interview: Kim Dunn of Pit Stop Bar-B-Q

Owner/Pitmaster: Pit Stop Bar-B-Q; opened 2006 (2010 in current location)Age: 58Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokerWood: PecanKim Dunn learned to cook in her native Korea before she left in 1978. She then got her training in Louisiana cuisine by working at Popeye’s before shifting over to Texas barbecue as an owner of Colter’s BBQ

February 26, 2014

Pitmaster Interview: Vencil Mares of Taylor Cafe

Owner/Pitmaster: Taylor Cafe; opened 1948Age: 90Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokerWood: Post OakVencil Mares (pronounced like a group of female horses, not the planet) normally sits at the end of the bar just inside the side door of Taylor Cafe. For this interview we went into the only place in the restaurant with air conditioning

February 19, 2014

Interview: Billy McDonald of Mac’s Bar-B-Que, Part II

Owner/Pitmaster: Mac’s Bar-B-Que; Opened 1955 (1982 in current location)Age: 60Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: HickoryBilly McDonald is a second generation pitmaster at Mac’s Bar-B-Que in Dallas. Last week we ran the first part of the interview with Billy that featured his father’s career in barbecue. It wasn’t until they moved to

February 12, 2014

Interview: Billy McDonald of Mac’s Bar-B-Que, Part I

Owner/Pitmaster: Mac’s Bar-B-Que; Opened 1955 (1982 in current location)Age: 60Smoker: Indirect Heat Wood-Fired PitWood: HickoryThe McDonalds have been a fixture in the Dallas barbecue scene since 1949. Mac’s has moved around a bit, but Billy McDonald has no plans to leave his current spot on Main Street just outside Deep Ellum. He sat

February 5, 2014

Interview: Bill and Francene Barton of Neely’s

Twins Francene and Geraldine Neely from the Neely’s Facebook page.Owners: Neely’s, opened 1927Age: 66Smoker: Wood-fired steel offset smokerWood: HickoryNeely’s in Marshall, Texas is famous for being very old and for serving a Brown Pig sandwich. It’s by far their most popular menu item, but of course Bill wants to remind you that people

January 29, 2014

Interview: Allen Prine of Prine’s BBQ

A newspaper clipping on the wall at Prine’s BBQ of Allen Prine and his late father, Harry Prine Jr.Owner/Pitmaster: Prine’s Barbecue, opened 1925Age: 61Smoker: Wood-fired brick pitWood: OakLike many third generation pitmasters, Allen Prine was a reluctant one. He had grander plans than working for dad, but now he

January 22, 2014

Interview: Bryan Bracewell of Southside Market

Photo courtesy of Southside MarketOwner: Southside Market, opened 1886Age: 38Smoker: Wood-fired rotisserie smokers and wood-fired brick pitWood: Post OakMore than eight decades after it opened, Ernest Bracewell bought Southside Market in Elgin in 1968. Bryan Bracewell is the third generation of the Bracewell family to run the joint, but he

January 15, 2014

Interview: Joe Capello of City Market in Luling

Pitmaster: City Market in Luling, opened 1958Age: 67Smoker: Wood-fired brick pit and a gas-fired rotisserie smokerWood: Post OakIf you’ve been to City Market in Luling, chances are you’ve seen the hard-hat clad Joe Capello. If their doors are open, then he’s probably there working the pit like he’s done for the last few

January 8, 2014

Interview: Erik Mrok of Lenox Bar-B-Q

Owner: Lenox Bar-B-Q, opened 1946Age: 56Smoker: Wood-fired rotisserie smokersWood: Pecan and OakErik Mrok is mad, and with good reason. He took over a legendary barbecue joint in Houston that had been around for over fifty years. Just ten years later he had to watch a good portion of it get demolished to

December 24, 2013

Interview: Kent Black of Black’s BBQ

Photo provided by Black’s BBQPitmaster/Manager: Black’s BBQ, opened 1932 (current location since 1936)Age: 60Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokers and gas-fired rotisseriesWood: Post OakBlack’s BBQ is a family affair. After starting in 1932, they now have the fourth generation, Barrett Black, working at the restaurant. Three of those generations recently appeared together on

December 18, 2013

Interview: Roy Perez of Kreuz Market

Pitmaster: Kreuz Market, opened 1900 (current location since 1999)Age: 51Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokerWood: Post OakThe following is reprinted from the January 2014 issue of Texas Monthly, and also includes additional material from the interview taken on October 5, 2013.Kreuz Market is the most famous name in the most famous barbecue city in

December 11, 2013

Interview: Bob Allen of Bob’s Bar-B-Que

Photo by Nicholas McWhirterOwner/Co-Pitmaster: Bob’s Bar-B-Que, opened 1980Age: 74Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokerWood: HickoryHenderson, Texas is a small town of about 13,000 between Tyler and Nacogdoches in East Texas. This is where Bob Allen was born and raised, and where he aims to stay. He’s seen a lot of

November 27, 2013

Interview: Kathleen Mann of Mann’s Smokehouse BBQ

Kathleen Mann, from the company’s Facebook pagePitmaster: Mann’s Smokehouse BBQ, opened 1996Age: 31Smoker: Gas-Fired rotisserie smokerWood: Pecan and OakIn a town that’s all about the meat, Mann’s in Austin boasts sixteen side items. It’s cut from a different cloth, which makes sense if you know that Jim and

November 20, 2013

Interview: J&R Manufacturing

Owners: H.E. Finley and Mike HigginsCompany: J&R Manufacturing, since 1974Mike Higgins, a chemical engineer, and H. E Finley, a mechanical engineer, joined forces and families nearly forty years ago to start J&R Manufacturing. H. E. had just married Mike’s sister, and Mike had just started with the

November 13, 2013

Interview: Dirk Miller of Miller’s Smokehouse

Dirk Miller. Photo by Nicholas McWhirterPitmaster: Miller’s Smokehouse, opened 2008Age: 48Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokerWood: OakDirk Miller has never been this busy in his life. He called me from a van outside of his barbecue joint so nobody would bug him. He hasn’t taken a vacation in

November 6, 2013

Interview: Travis Mayes of Meshack’s Bar-Be-Que

Travis Mayes at his walk-up window.Pitmaster: Meshack’s Bar-Be-Que, opened 2009Age: 64Smoker: Wood-fired Brick Smoker w/ gas assistWood: PecanIt was a Monday morning and Meshack’s was closed like normal. Travis and I had arranged this time to meet since the tasks to get ready for Tuesday were pretty slow-paced. There

October 30, 2013

Interview: Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88

Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hard Eight Pit BBQ“The further west I go, the more I seem to like the barbecue.” That’s a curious way for a native of North Carolina to start off a press conference, but NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. was just being honest. He doesn’t much

October 23, 2013

Interview: Al Plaskoff of Big Al’s Smokehouse

Al, Lauran and ScottOwner: Big Al’s Smokehouse, Opened 1973Age: 69Smoker: Wood-fired rotisserieWood: HickoryI sat down with Al and his daughter Lauran Weiner to talk about the history of Big Al’s, the Plaskoff family and a little Dallas barbecue history. Al Plaskoff fell into the barbecue business. He wasn’t from a storied barbecue family,

October 16, 2013

Interview: Roy Jeffrey of R&G Bar-B-Que

Owner/Pitmaster: R&G Bar-B-Que, opened 1990Age: 69Smoker: Wood-fired offset smokerWood: OakWhen Roy Jeffrey started working at the City Market in Luling back in 1954 he had a full head of black hair. At sixty-nine years of age it looks like he hasn’t lost a single one. When I asked him how

October 9, 2013

Interview: Chad Decker of Hard Eight BBQ

Chad Decker. Photo from Hard 8 Facebook pageGeneral Manager: Hard Eight BBQ, opened 2003Age: 40Smoker: Wood-fired cookers and gas-fired rotisseriesWood: MesquiteDale Earnhardt Jr. held a charity event at the Hard Eight BBQ location in Roanoke last week. I arrived early before the press conference and sat down with Chad Decker who

October 2, 2013

Interview: Tyler Frazer of Tyler’s Barbeque

Photo c/o Tyler FrazerPitmaster: Tyler’s Barbeque, opened 2010Age: 45Smoker: Wood-fired Cabinet SmokerWood: MesquiteTyler Frazer took a converted Long John Silvers and turned it into a unique Panhandle barbecue joint. The menu itself isn’t so unique. You’ll find all the barbecue standards, but it’s his methods that buck the standard way of doing things

September 25, 2013

Interview: Meat Baby Crew

Brian PattonThis isn’t so much a pitmaster interview as it is a discussion with a few Europeans who hope to learn the ways of Texas barbecue. Brian Patton is from Dublin, but he operates restaurants in Vienna, Austria. He is in Texas on a barbecue pilgrimage which

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