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Q&A: Daniel "BBQ Snob" Vaughn Goes From Blog To Book

Daniel Vaughn checks out the barbecue pits in Dalhart, TX.
Daniel Vaughn checks out the barbecue pits in Dalhart, TX.
Photo: Nicholas McWhirter/Redblank

Recognized throughout Texas and beyond as one of the most thorough, dedicated and educated barbecue bloggers in the wide world of meat-blogging, Daniel "BBQ Snob" Vaughn has established a reputation as a Dallas gem in our city's often rocky food criticism landscape. His Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog, started three years ago as a hobby, is a study in one man's meat obsession. Texas Monthly even trusts the man enough to make his reviews an integral part of their Texas BBQ app. But now, Vaughn's obsession has morphed from blog to book, and Vaughn announced yesterday on his blog that he'll be scaling back his online work to put his barbecue love on paper. He writes:

I'm going to attempt to produce a large number of written pages that others may find an interest in reading. This doesn't mean that new BBQ reviews won't be coming into your life, they'll just be a little less frequent. I expect to be able to keep putting out two per week given my current backlog and my insatiable appetite for barbecue discovery.
We caught up with Vaughn via e-mail, asking him about his upcoming project and the highs and lows of becoming one of Texas best-known and best-respected barbecue bloggers.

When you started FCGB, did you think you'd end up a veritable BBQ celebrity? What does that feel like now? When I started the blog it was a way of cataloging my experiences and impressions of smoked meat around the state. As it grew I realized how much other folks started using it to shape their itineraries for Texas BBQ travel, and that's flattering. Having people respect my opinions makes me take this thing a whole lot more seriously. If you'll notice in some very early reviews they are a few sentences long and contain no pictures. It has really evolved based on reader input about what they'd like to see. As for being a BBQ celebrity, they just don't exist on this side of the pits. The only celebrities in this business are those who bust their ass daily for far longer than I sit at my desk just so we can all have slow smoked brisket.

What are your hopes/plans for your book project -- more travelogue, review compendium, recipes? The idea of the book is less about a listing of reviews, and more about how the journey affects the experience of the food. Some of the roadtrips I've recently taken and plan on taking are to areas of the state I've never visited, so there will be genuine discovery of the landscape, the people and the barbecue styles. When sharing my plans for a Texas Panhandle road trip I was told to expect little from the landscape and the food, but I found the flatness and the lonely windmills fascinating, and at the same time discovered an odd common thread of apricot purees, incredible onion rings, and sweet glazed ribs at many of the joints I visited. The book will also include plenty of great photography from my friend and collaborator Nicholas McWhirter. You can see a selection of his work from last month's trip to Dalhart here.

What are the most memorable experiences that came out of FCGB for you? Places you wish you'd never visited, places you wish you'd visited sooner? There is no one single memory that stands out, but the first real road trip I took with my buddy Sam Watkins was literally mind and palate altering. I'd never had so much great smoked meat in a single weekend, and we came back to Dallas depressed at our city's selection. That was back in 2006, and things have certainly improved in Dallas since then. There isn't one experience that I've had that I'd rather have skipped. They all helped shape my world view of barbecue. Some I wish I'd gotten to sooner like the original Stubb's in Lubbock which closed in 1985 when I was a second grader in Ohio. One that was a little more realistic was Harold's in Abilene that has recently closed due to a stroke suffered by owner and pitmaster Harold Christian.

· I'm Not Going Away, But ... [FCGB]
· Texas Monthly Launches New Barbecue App [Appmodo]
· XIT Rodeo + Texas Panhandle BBQ Road Trip [redblank]