Dallas-based barbecue savant Daniel Vaughn may just be the first full-time, professional barbecue critic in the country. This morning, Texas Monthly tells Eater that Vaughn will become their first Barbecue Editor. (He will join the publication's longtime food editor Pat Sharpe.) What does that entail, exactly? Vaughn will write stories on barbecue topics for Texas Monthly's websites, will manage and update the magazine's Top Fifty Barbecue list (which will get its massive, once-every-five-years update in June), and, perhaps most interestingly, will write weekly reviews of Texas-style barbecue both inside and outside of the state. (Look out, cheap imitators.) Or, as Vaughn tells Eater, "I want to cover the entire life-cycle of barbecue. Hell, I might even interview my pharmacist."
Vaughn came to barbecue fame thanks to his blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ, which reviews barbecue across Texas and beyond. Vaughn tells Eater, "Exactly how Full Custom Gospel BBQ will continue is still in-process. At the very least the site will continue to live as a searchable resource for fellow barbecue fiends." (Vaughn is also leaving his previous position at an architecture firm to fully commit to barbecue.) Thanks to the blog, Vaughn got a book deal with Anthony Bourdain's Ecco imprint, and his book The Prophets of Smoked Meats comes out in May.
According to Vaughn, his weekly column will "dig a little deeper into the people that make it happen from pitmasters to pit makers as well as wood suppliers and cattle ranchers." He also plans on covering "Texas barbecue across the state and across the globe," so if anyone's smoking brisket in Antarctica, let him know.
Texas may be the only state in the US that's actually hiring critics. Amidst massive downsizing at publications across the country, Robb Walsh was recently hired as the new food editor of the forthcoming Houstonia magazine, and now this announcement comes from Texas Monthly. Two's a trend?
Anyway, Vaughn is already in the game: after a trip to New York City to sample restaurants like Fatty 'Cue and Hill Country, Vaughn takes on Village Voice restaurant critic Robert Sietsema. Calling Sietsema a "satirical publicist," Vaughn criticizes a March 13 piece entitled "Laugh if You Like, Texas, but New York is Now a BBQ Capital":
Sietsema had already stuck a pin in his fragile balloon of an argument by hitching his New York barbecue wagon to a hairdresser-cum-pit tender who opened a restaurant 21 years ago (that is no longer in business) and a trio of barbecue establishments that have been open for nine months combined. Looks like the flag marking the new capital needs to be planted in firmer ground.
Don't mess with Texas? Or at least don't mock their barbecue. Vaughn officially starts as Barbecue Editor on April 15.