With great barbecue comes great responsibility

Take a moment to think about your dream job. Does it include travel and delicious food? If so, Daniel Vaughn might be living out your fantasy as the first-ever barbecue editor for Texas Monthly.

Vaughn only started his new full-time job on April 15, but he is no stranger to food writing — specifically of the smoked meat variety. Before being hired as the barbecue editor for the magazine and Web site, he collaborated with Texas Monthly on  a number of their barbecue related project, which popped up with unsurprising frequency. One of his most notable contributions was assisting with the round up of the top 50 barbecue joints in Texas which publishes every five years. In addition to working on this year’s list,  Vaughn’s book “The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue” is due out in May. 

The direction of 35-year-old Vaughn’s career can be largely attributed to the blog he started in 2008, Full Custom Gospel BBQ. Vaughn used weekends to every corner of the state, reviewing barbecue joints along the way. Texas Monthly used reviews from Full Custom Gospel BBQ in its iPhone application dedicated to Texas’ smoked meats.  The blog gave him the necessary experience to become a full-time writer and editor on the subject.

“It was a very organic transition,” Vaughn said. “It was a hobby I’d fiddle around with now and then, and it turned into a passion.”

It might be tough to imagine Vaughn’s transition from full-time architect to his current career, but as Vaughn puts it, “Architecture was getting in the way of barbecue, and it was time for a change.”

The Ohio native currently resides in Dallas. He didn’t migrate to Texas for the food, but for a girl who is now his wife. Barbecue was a happy accident.

“I was completely clueless about Texas barbecue until I moved here,” Vaughn said.      “I’m not trying to come at it with 35 years of experience.”

If you’re still thinking that “barbecue editor” sounds made up, Vaughn breaks down his duties. Each week he writes four to five blog posts and interviews pit masters and newsmakers in the barbecue world. His concentration is on Texas barbecue, but his coverage will also expand to Texas-style barbecue outside of the state.

A lot of Vaughn’s responsibilities are similar to what he had been doing on his blog, but he now has much more flexibility.

 “I’m going to have the freedom to do visits in the middle of the week rather than nights and weekends,” he said. “But I don’t get paid to eat barbecue; I get paid to write about it.”

The freedom to travel will also help him report on Texas-style barbecue restaurants in other states, and maybe even other countries. Vaughn said that the nation’s barbecue boom is largely centered in Texas, which is why other places choose to emulate it. 

“I would never be one to contend that [Texas barbecue] can’t be done outside of state lines,” he said. “I can’t speak for all of them. I’ve certainly had barbecue in New York that was better than some of the worst places in Texas, but they can’t match the best places in Texas.” 

Vaughn is also prepared to suggest what to eat when you visit a real barbecue joint.

“Everywhere I go, I’m going to get a brisket, but my eyes light up when there’s a beef short rib on the menu,” he said.

He also prefers to save good barbecue sauce for his bread, because he loves the smoky flavor.

Even as a self-proclaimed barbecue snob, Vaughn doesn’t have many famed home recipes, but he likes to try his hand at smoking meats in his backyard. 

“I like experimental things, and I’m thinking of maybe doing a monthly segment called Smoke It for the blog or the magazine, where I would smoke a strange food — say a pig’s foot — and kind of test a theory to see if it tastes good,” he said. 

However, being the barbecue editor for the “National Magazine of Texas” may not be the stopping point for Vaughn. Plenty of people travel and eat on television for a living, and Vaughn said he would be open to the idea. 

“Even my Texas Monthly editor would agree that TV money is better than journalism money,” he laughed.

He may joke about the income, but he also realizes his real fortune.

 “It was made pretty clear to me that the entire world is jealous,” he said. “I’m unequivocally the luckiest man in the world.”

DANIEL VAUGHN’S FAVORITE ‘CUE IN THE AUSTIN AREA

Franklin Barbecue

 “If you’ve got the time for the line or pre-order, then I love the brisket, pulled pork, and ribs.”

John Mueller Meat Company 

“The beef ribs are unequaled.”

la Barbecue 

“There’s a new smoker I haven’t tried yet, and it’s supposed to be better.”

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew 

“For great, fatty brisket, beef ribs and cold beer on draft.”

Micklethwait Craft Meats

“They always have a new and interesting sausage on the list.”