Friday Find: Barbecue Photographer Wyatt McSpadden on the Tales from the Pit Podcast

Wyatt McSpadden, whose excellent book “Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown” (our review here) came out last fall, recently joined the Tales from the Pits podcast to discuss how he came into his job of photographing so many barbecue joints for Texas Monthly and why he came out with another Texas BBQ photograph book less than 10 years after his first one was published in 2009.

Wyatt McSpadden’s love of Texas barbecue stretches back even further in time than his celebrated photography career which spans five decades. Growing up in a meat market family in Amarillo some of Wyatt’s earliest memories involve barbecue. As a young man his hobby of photography began growing into a passion that evolved into a profession.

In our interview with Wyatt we cover his early days photographing the construction of the famous Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, the beginnings of his BBQ photography, up to present day with the release of his latest book, Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown, and all points in between. Wyatt has witnessed historic moments in Texas barbecue firsthand including the splitting of the Kreuz/Smitty’s businesses in Lockhart, and his career has seen the advancements in both the meat quality of the barbecue produced and the many advancements in technology that have changed the photography world. Like the transition of film to digital, the Texas Barbecue scene has evolved.

Both of Wyatt’s books are must-own items for barbecue lovers and are available at all major retailers. Wyatt’s portraits of both the food and the people that cook it are beautifully laid out in these books designed by Nancy McMillan

Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Texas BBQ: From Small Town to Downtown” by Wyatt McSpadden

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Texas photographer Wyatt McSpadden released a barbecue photo book just 9 years before this book, in 2009. So why a new book now? Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, a lot has happened in the world of barbecue in the past 10 years, particularly in Texas. In 2013, Texas Monthly hired a full-time barbecue editor in Daniel Vaughn (who lends McSpadden an essay for this book). Also, a little joint opened up in Austin just months after that first book’s release, and it changed everything. You may have heard of it – Franklin Barbecue. So yeah, there is quite a bit more ground to cover.

Now I haven’t yet read the first book (though its now at the top of my shortlist of barbecue books), but I get the impression that its very similar in nature. In “Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown,” Wyatt’s fantastic photography is front and center, of course and beautifully laid out by his wife Nancy McMillan.

Wyatt does write about a handful of joints that mean a great deal to him, from joints that remind him of the joints he went to growing up in Amarillo (like Prause Meat Market in xxx) to legendary places where he tasted his first transcendent bites of barbecue (Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor).

Wyatt’s passion is evident in those words as well as his gorgeous photography. He was there to document the rise of Aaron Franklin and Franklin Barbecue (Franklin provides the foreword, pictured above) and more than most, has criss-crossed the state for nearly 30 years, documenting every weathered nook and smoke-encrusted cranny.
“Texas BBQ: From Small Town to Downtown” is an essential barbecue book to add to your collection. I will say, North Carolina barbecue needs it’s own iteration of this book, and what a dream job that would be.

Available wherever you buy books. Official description:

In Texas BBQ, Wyatt McSpadden immortalized the barbecue joints of rural Texas in richly authentic photographs that made the people and places in his images appear as timeless as barbecue itself. The book found a wide, appreciative audience as barbecue surged to national popularity with the success of young urban pitmasters such as Austin’s Aaron Franklin, whose Franklin Barbecue has become the most-talked-about BBQ joint on the planet. Succulent, wood-smoked “old school” barbecue is now as easy to find in Dallas as in DeSoto, in Houston as in Hallettsville. In Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown, Wyatt McSpadden pays homage to this new urban barbecue scene, as well as to top-rated country joints, such as Snow’s in Lexington, that were under the radar or off the map when Texas BBQwas published.

Texas BBQ, Small Town to Downtown presents crave-inducing images of both the new—and the old—barbecue universe in almost every corner of the state, featuring some two dozen joints not included in the first book. In addition to Franklin and Snow’s, which have both occupied the top spot in Texas Monthly’s barbecue ratings, McSpadden portrays urban joints such as Dallas’s Pecan Lodge and Cattleack Barbecue and small-town favorites such as Whup’s Boomerang Bar-B-Que in Marlin. Accompanying his images are barbecue reflections by James Beard Award–winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin and Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn. Their words and McSpadden’s photographs underscore how much has changed—and how much remains the same—since Texas BBQrevealed just how much good, old-fashioned ’cue there is in Texas.