Caroline Hatchett: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Aaron Franklin: We like barbecue. We’re passionate about barbecue. It’s not cooking on a line. Not cheffery. It has its own idiosyncrasies, and the payoff is greater.
CH: How so?
AF: It takes 18 to 20 hours to cook one piece of meat. If any one thing goes wrong, it’s ruined. When it goes right, the reward is greater.
CH: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?
AF: Don’t go to culinary school. Get a job and learn it on your own. I think anyone who has any interest in kitchens should find a job and see if you like it before spending a whole lot of money on culinary school. Plus, you’ll make the same amount of money when you get out as people who didn’t go to school.
CH: What goes into adding something to your menu?
AF: You can’t really deviate from basic cuts. You can do beef ribs and baby back ribs. But you have low temperatures and long cooking times. It’s pretty limiting; you can’t get creative with different cuts of meat.
CH: Where does creativity come into barbecue?
AF: It’s not creativity. It’s more of a craft—like brewing beer or roasting coffee. It takes a trained eye and a skilled person. You’re not just throwing a log on the fire. How long will it burn? It’s the weather, fluctuating meat supply, and always knowing what do to. There’s always something that goes wrong and something that needs to be done. There’s also fluid dynamics and how smoke works. It can get kind of nerdy.
CH: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
AF: Consistency. Constantly getting all-natural product and making sure every day tastes the same. When it rains, when it’s hot, things taste differently. We cook outdoors. Everything constantly changes.
CH: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job?
AF: The 30-hour work days—not going home for three days because I couldn’t leave work.
CH: What’s your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
AF: The fact that everyday people wait for three hours for food, and they’re still excited to get it. People aren’t cranky; they’re still excited to eat. It’s pretty darn gratifying.
CH: What does success mean for you?
AF: That [my wife and I are] happy. Our little baby is the barbecue place. The fact that it’s doing well and hasn’t killed us yet is pretty cool.
CH: Where do you see yourself in five years?
AF: Having better food and a little bit more of it. A little smoother operation.