Daniel Vaughn, BBQ Snob

Daniel Vaughn at the Texas Book Festival

Daniel Vaughn at the Texas Book Festival

As you’ll recall I attended the Texas Book Festival on Sunday, October 27th. During the Dallas Noir session, I spied a face I thought looked familiar but couldn’t quite place his name. I smiled at him a couple of times until it clicked who it was that was by this time sitting nearby. It was Daniel Vaughn, the newly ordained high priest of Texas barbecue. As a lover of barbecue and a believer in the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas list, this is a man I had to talk to. Not to mention, by love and force of will this guy followed his bliss into being the only barbecue editor in the country and the only full-time barbecue editor in history. His love for Texas barbecue runs deep. He stated, “I believe if everyone in the country ate at one of Texas Monthly‘s Top 4 BBQ joints, there would no longer be arguments about regional BBQ superiority. There would be an undeniable consensus that Texas has the best.”

A short time later we were sitting on hay bales talking about the Texas Book Festival, barbecue, and the Texas Monthly Top 50 list and eventually carried the conversation over into email. His seven year intense study of barbecue culminated a barbecue blog to his book The Prophets of Smoked Meat and the barbecue editorship at Texas Monthly. He said about his shift from barbecue blogger to his editorship, “Just kept eating. They had to notice eventually.”

He began his editorship with the releasing of both his book and the latest Texas Monthly Top 50 Barbecue Places in Texas with Austin’s newer, more gourmet Franklin Barbecue at the top of the list and the established Smitty’s of Lockhart noticeably absent. While most readers recognized the quality of Franklin’s work, many readers spoke out about the lack of love for Smitty’s. Vaughn said he had visited Smitty’s three times hoping the results would be different. Sadly, they weren’t. He also mentioned on his return to Smitty’s after the list came out, his gracious reception by Nina Schmidt Sells, the owner of Smitty’s.

This was Vaughn’s first year attending the Texas Book Festival as an author and he appeared to enjoy it when a woman stopped him during the interview to tell him about her appreciation of his work. He also attended panels during the festival: “I liked seeing the Dallas Noir panel, even though Ben Fountain was missing. It helped that I got to chat with him quite a bit the night before at the Paisano Ranch where he’s currently living.” Fountain was unable to attend the panel because the only road in and out of the ranch was inaccessible due to heavy rains the night before.

Vaughn considers it “weird” to call himself a writer. He admitted to being daunted on Sundays before his weekly article is due. But by Tuesday “he has found something” to write about. Vaughn cites Robb Walsh, Anthony Bourdain, John T.Edge, and Diane Jacobs as influences on him as a writer.

With the current surge in Texas barbecue popularity due to Franklin Barbecue’s fame on a national scale and Vaughn’s evangelizing, more people will discover what Vaughn did about Texas barbecue: “It’s just so damn good.”