Winning the Sam’s Club BBQ Tour would put some nice coin in your bank. Winning Memphis in May would be amazing. Winning the American Royal would put you on top of the BBQ world. Winning the Jack would make you speechless. Winning a James Beard award as a chef would be life changing. Winning a James Beard award as a pitmaster would make you a BBQ Legend. Austin, Texas based pitmaster Aaron Franklin did just that in 2015, he became a Legend, not just in the BBQ world, but in the culinary world, when he won the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Southwest Region.
Franklin, the owner and pitmaster of Franklin Barbecue became the first ever pitmaster to be recognized as “best chef” at the annual James Beard Foundation Awards. The annual Beard awards for best chef have historically gone to chefs from well recognized culinary cathedrals serving “fine” cuisine in kitchens maned by sous chefs with serious culinary chops of their own, not by pitmasters cooking with post oak in smokers made from recycled steel tanks.
In his acceptance speech Franklin said, “This award is so much bigger than me and so much bigger than our restaurant in Austin, Texas. It’s pretty huge for barbecue in general.” After the awards ceremony he continued by saying, “It is a monumental shift for the culinary world to recognize barbecue like this.” Adding that “I think it’s more about barbecue than me.”
In a year filled with some pretty awesome BBQ stories, the significance of Franklin receiving a James Beard award can’t be understated. As he said, it is a monumental shift for barbecue to be recognized among the many fine cuisines we celebrate in America. After all, nothing is more American than barbecue and it’s about time the culinary elites recognize what pitmasters and millions of BBQ eaters have recognized for decades, nothing is better than a meat cooked low and slow over a stick of wood. Congratulations Aaron and thank you for helping move BBQ a few more steps forward in the American culinary lexicon!
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