The Campaign for Real Barbecue, (aka True Cue) expands to Virginia and DC, with John Tanner of John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog leading the charge. Founded in 2014, the Campaign already operates in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia.
But before that, they are chatting over a ridiculous looking platter of meat at Franklin Barbecue and discussing the the “left vs right” theory of brisket. In short, the majority of cows are “rightys” (like humans) and get up from a lying position on their right side. So the theory goes, pitmasters always will want a left brisket from their distributors and thus they are harder to find. Franklin, however, doesn’t lend any credence to this theory and calls BS, even though he notes that he just so happens to have a lot of left briskets at his restaurant. Favreau jokes that he and the rest of the regular joes out there must get all the right briskets for their backyard then. They also discuss stick burners and Franklin’s approach to temperate versus feel. As with any of these conversations, its fascinating to get insight into Franklin’s mind.
Then, the conversation shifts to the Hot Luck Festival, which Aaron created to be the “anti-food-festival festival” for chefs and cooks. This was filmed ahead of the very first one in 2017, and Franklin explains his approach in inviting friends and cooks that he admires. Essentially, he wants each chef to cook what they would cook for their friends, “even if that’s just hot dogs.” Roy Choi is cooking his famous Kalbi short ribs with the tweak that he will be starting them off in the smoker, which isn’t normally the case for Korean short ribs (but which Franklin is very into). Then, Favreau joins Choi in the kitchen to begin prep.
Choi begins game planning what prep can be done today (sauce, kimchi) versus what would need to be done tomorrow (smoking and grilling of the ribs). With just one Vitamix blender (as opposed to a big immersion blender that could be submerged into the big pot), the process isn’t as efficient as it could be but you can see where Choi is adjusting the scaled-up recipe based on instinct and tasting along the way. I wonder if Favreau knew exactly what he signed up when he volunteered to assist Roy in the kitchen.
Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn makes a brief cameo as Favreau and Choi are heading to the smokehouse to check out their smoker for the following day. He will make another appearance later in the episode.
The final piece of prep for the day is marinating the beef short ribs in the Kalbi sauce they just made; Favreau looks exhausted by the end of it.
After a quick diversion to a deconstructed s’more from Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar (and the custom-made flame apparatus create by Franklin for the festival), it’s finally the day of the festival and time to get down to business. Favreau is once again put to work loading the smoker with the short ribs and 5 hours later, they are done with the initial smoke part of the process. Choi serves a sample rib to fellow Angeleno Adam Perry Lang of APL, who is in town for the festival and approves.
Choi shows Favreau how to finish the ribs on the grill and then heads out to the festival to begin serving. Favreau sends platters of finished ribs out to Choi who slices them and puts them in a bowl with rice and the kimchi they prepared yesterday.
Hot Luck looks awesome, and you get a little sense of the other dishes and chefs/cooks there, including the aforementioned Daniel Vaughn’s smoked NY strip taco.
This episode was a little more process-oriented than the previous episode, mainly because of Choi’s participation in Hot Luck. I’ve gotta say, it was funny to see Favreau working so hard though I must sympathize because that looked to be extremely hot conditions at the festival considering it was May in Austin.
While these two episodes are my only exposure to “The Chef Show” to date, I may go back and check out the other, non-barbecue episodes. Favreau and Choi have an easy going camaraderie between them and the episodes are a good length at 30 minutes or less each. Season 1 was broken into two “volumes” that both premiered in 2019 so I will be curious to see how much more of this show (if any) there will be since Favreau is now helming “The Mandolorian” on Disney+ and Choi is surely busy with his own ventures. In any case, these two episodes are a welcome insight into the mind of Aaron Franklin that you wouldn’t be able to get by watching old episodes of “BBQ Pitmasters.”
Monk: Writer/director/producer Jon Favreau caught the food bug while filming his movie “Chef” (in which Aaron Franklin had a cameo) and has turned that into the travel/food docuseries “The Chef Show” where he explores the county with Los Angeles food truck godfather Roy Choi (who was a producer as well was the inspiration for the movie). In a couple of episodes from season 1, Jon and Roy stop in Austin to spend time with Aaron Franklin before checking out the Hot Luck Festival (which I’ll recap next week).
The episode starts with the three of them meeting up for breakfast tacos at the Pueblo Viejo taco truck. There, Favreau gets a brief history from Franklin on the start of Franklin Barbecue from the tiny first trailer in 2009 where he was on the forefront of the craft barbecue movement in Austin and ultimately the US. While Franklin’s briskets weren’t quite at the current level when they first opened, it was through the repetition of smoking briskets every day no matter the weather or greenness of the wood that Franklin got the briskets to be of a consistent quality. Roy and Aaron compared notes from the early days (and simpler times) of their respective food trucks, and how they eventually learned to embrace the hours-long lines of people and the possibility of disappointing them.
The middle segment focuses on Favreau prepping a brisket in the kitchen at Franklin Barbecue, getting tips along the way. Favreau also tells the brief story of smoking a brisket and flying with it cross-country to meet Bill Murray to convince him to do The Jungle Book. Then, Franklin shows Favreau how he would trim his brisket (14:54). For those without a Master Class subscription to watch Aaron Franklin run through his brisket process step by step, I would imagine they would want to study this segment very carefully.
Then, Favreau and Franklin season their briskets (18:59) with Franklin’s half and half rub of Morton’s Kosher salt and 16 mesh black pepper, which they age. Franklin is careful not to waste too much pepper, as he apparently accidentally throws away $200 per week (!!) in pepper from the side of the board. From there, the briskets are off to the smoker.
The final part of the episode is Favreau slicing for customers in line at Franklin (though no orders are being taken and it looks to be not during a regular service since each customer just gets a slice of brisket on white bread). Franklin is of course there to give him tips on his slicing, from using the thumb as a guide to making sure not to twist his wrist during the action of slicing.
In this episode of “The Chef Show”, Favreau brings a fan and backyard smoker’s perspective to Franklin Barbecue (albeit, a backyard smoker who happens to be a big Hollywood player and has Aaron Franklin on speed dial). Choi is less a part of the show and somewhat relegates himself to the background with not much from him after the initial segment on the humble beginnings of his food truck. Though he does get a little more run in the next episode where he is cooking his short ribs at the Hot Luck festival. Franklin himself is great on camera, and his personality shines through. All in all, the 26 minute episode breezes by very quickly and is worth checking out for any barbecue fan with a Netflix account.
Food Insider makes the rounds at some of Austin’s best barbecue spots before declaring a winner.
Description: Austin is one of the best places in the country to get barbecue, especially if you’re looking for Central Texas-style. These are the best places to get brisket, ribs, and sausage from the most popular spots to the hidden gems. 1:20: Louie Mueller Barbecue 4:25: Micklethwait Craft Meats 7:35: Franklin Barbecue 10:14: LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue 13:25: The winner