Published: March 10, 2014
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You would never know that Talyor, TX a city about 29 miles northeast of Austin, TX and a town population of 15,191 people and approximately 5,300 households in the city lives a teacher and a preacher of the barbecue gospel: Wayne Mueller.
Wayne is the grandson of Louie Mueller or how Wayne referees to him as the “Executive Producer” of Central Texas Barbecue gospel, and also the son to the James Beard Award Winner: Bobby Mueller. During a recent trip to Texas, I had a chance to spend the afternoon with Wayne as he not only showed me how to prepare his famous brisket, I also had the experience to see how Wayne tops whatever he is doing to talk to a local high school group of kids that is in town for some great barbecue and also found time to pose for pictures and give a behind the scenes tour of this grandfathers famous barbecue joint.
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But before I go any further, let’s step back for a second to figure out where Wayne comes from because, where he comes from is how he shoulders the responsibility of now being in charge of his father’s and grandfather’s legacy in Central Texas barbecue.
Wayne Mueller, started working for his dad when he took over Louie Muller BBQ in 1974. At the age of eight Wayne was the first enlisted staff member for the barbecue joint, but he couldn’t wait to get out of Talyor. During a 25 year sabbatical Wayne lived and worked in Houston, in the corporate entertainment and marketing until Wayne had a shift of perspective on what is important to him FAMILY.
The pit that occupies and produces amazing barbecue meats is the original pit, which was built in 1949 and the sausage maker that has pressed over a million sausages by now was created over 100 years ago. The original Louie Mueller BBQ joint is only across the street and down one block behind an alley next to railroad tracks that is where Wayne’s grandfather started to smoke meats, and only served what the local town folks wanted. The space that currently houses Louie Mueller BBQ used to be a local gymnasium where the locals would box, play basketball and all different types of sports.
In a 2012 article on Austin Eater.com, Wayne described himself as a “…a curator. Here’s this museum, with these pieces and it’s my job to keep them intact, to keep them whole. This is now an institution.”
The Mueller family bought the current space and transformed it into what it is today. There are still items that remind you of a very different time. The old restrooms are now inside the kitchen and have three separate stalls: Women, Men and one for Colored people. It is a constant reminder of ” a very difficult time in both Texas and American history… and look how far we have come,” Wayne explained to a group of High school kids that got a behind the seances tour of the kitchen. While Wayne was explaining how you prep a piece of brisket to kids from the Houston area [Which will hopefully see a Louie Muller BBQ Joint in the very near future], all of the kids eyes weren’t glued to their cellphones or snapping pictures to share with their friends on either Instagram or Twitter, instead they were glued and hanging onto every word that Wayne was telling them hoping to get a better understanding of the rich Central Texas barbecue secrets that one day they could use to make that perfect brisket to impress their Texan friends. After Wayne took time to explain the “Louie Muller BBQ” processes on creating some amazing brisket, they got a treat to actually have their taste buds experience what people from all over the country and also locals get to experience: mind blowing barbecue, Central Texas style.
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It also strikes me as all the really amazing barbecue restaurant owners come from the same line of family the Louie Muller Family of BBQ. Franklin BBQ’s owner Aaron Franklin used to work for Wayne’s brother John and la BBQ which is also in Austin is owned by Wayne’s sister: LeAnn Mueller. It is a true testament to the Muller family and all the long heritage of BBQ legends. But in my mind it is Wayne who not only carries the torch for this grandfather, but he also shoulders that powerful responsibility of spreading and preaching the true gospel of Central Texas BBQ and his grandfather’s mission to create and also perfect his craft.
I asked Wayne what I thought would be a simple yes or no question but instead I saw his eyes become a bit misty which really took me off guard. It’s funny how you think of people and that despite his tough exterior appearance, there is a person who is extremely grateful for the successes of his grandfather, father and even himself, and even though people from all over the country when they visit Central Texas, make a stop at his restaurant, Wayne wants more than anything to keep on working, improving his craft.
During my lesson I asked him what he thinks of the title of “Pitmaster,” and again his answer took me by surprise, but after driving back to my hotel later and after I had a chance for his answer to marinate for a while, his answer made complete sense. Wayne said “that a true definition of a BBQ Pitmaster is someone who wants and is willing to continue to learn this amazing craft of smoking meat and is always learning. Being a pitmaster isn’t someone who despite all the awards they won THINK that they know everything about barbecue…”
Wayne Mueller is the true and the shinning example of what you should be doing if you inherit a barbecue legacy like he did. Wayne might only be third generation pitmaster in his family, but to me and I think many others, he is setting the standard to what future barbecue owners should live up to and inspire to be. Even though I never met or will have the chance to met Bobby Mueller but something tells me that he would be extremely proud on what Wayne is doing.
Also of Interest:
- Grilling with Rich’s Amazing Texas Barbecue Crawl 2013
- Top 10 BBQ Joints Across to Visit Across America
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