Monk: Last month, Michael Wagner left Midwood Smokehouse and its parent company FS Food Group to return back to Texas. I was fortunate enough to meet Michael within a few weeks of him moving to Charlotte in 2016 to help open the short-lived Midwood Smokeshack and I also interviewed him and Matthew Barry in 2019 for our Pitmaster Profile series as the two main pitmasters for Midwood Smokehouse. Michael has always struck me as a very thoughtful and passionate person about barbecue, and his departure is a big loss for the Charlotte barbecue community. To bookend his time in NC, I wanted to check back in ahead of his big move.
Congrats on the new job! Where are you headed and what’s the new position?
Thanks! I’m going to Dallas, Texas to cook for Terry Black’s BBQ. I’ll be one of the crew of pitmasters at the restaurant.
What’s the first (non-barbecue) thing you’re going to do when you step foot back in Texas?
This is a big transition, and I have some time before I start work, so I’m going camping. Two weeks in the woods with my hammock and my stove.
That sounds very serene; I’m jealous. What are you most looking forward to when it comes to working again at a barbecue joint in Texas?
The pits themselves and the energy at the restaurants.
Any barbecue joints you plan to visit as soon as you get settled in Dallas?
Vaquero’s, Dayne’s, Hurtado’s
It was right at 5 years with FS Food Group. What are your memories from Midwood Smokeshack where I first met you back in 2016?
Man. Time flies. When I think of The Shack, I remember not knowing how to really cook anything besides BBQ. That was the beginning of a 5 year crash course. I think of Samantha, (she manages for Paco’s Tacos & Tequila now) and learning how to manage all that time.
What are your thoughts on the state of barbecue in Charlotte as you depart?
I’m happy to see a community of committed pitmasters forming. There’s been great food here all along. BBQ has a soul, and it needs a community to foster it.
Is there anything in particular you will take back to Texas from your time in NC?
Man, so much. I love all the trees, still have never gotten over them. I got pretty serious into disc golfing while here as a way to get out into all the parks. Mostly, I’m leaving here knowing that I capable of much more than smoking meat.
Thanks to Michael for taking his time in answering my questions, particularly in the middle of his big move. I hope to make it to Dallas and Terry Black’s soon to visit!