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Is Netflix’s ‘Ugly Delicious’ barbecue episode an injustice? Texas Monthly’s barbecue boss says yes

“I like the series. I’ve watched most of the episodes—some of them twice—and every one of them makes me more angry about the barbecue episode,” Texas Monthly’s barbecue lover, writer and self-proclaimed “snob” writes of Netflix’s “Ugly Delicious.” 

The series, which debuted on Netflix earlier this year, follows star chef and famed Momofuku restaurant group founder David Chang as he “hunts for the world’s most satisfying grub.” 

Which, for Chang at least, does not especially include American barbecue. According to Vaughn, the episode “implies that it’s stagnant, hemmed in by closed-minded pitmasters, and forcibly stifled by tradition. In all of Chang’s explorations, he somehow misses the good stuff right in front of him.”

During the episode, Chang makes a stop at five different barbecue restaurants, including Noma in Copenhagen, Masakichi in Tokyo, Parks BBQ in Los Angeles and 17 Street Barbecue Murphysboro, IL.

Ironically, the only one located in Texas was named the No. 1 barbecue joint in Texas by Vaughn: Snow’s BBQ in Lexington. 

READ: The only barbecue joint in the state Texas Monthly says is better than Franklin Barbecue

Just the visit to Snow’s (and a big hug from 82-year-old pitmaster Norma Frances “Tootsie” Tomanetz), however, was not enough to convince Vaughn that Chang took an “honest look into the history of barbecue or its modern manifestations, even in the tradition-bound setting of Texas.”

Instead Vaughn asserts that Chang paints himself a “savior from boring barbecue” and missteps by slighting pitmasters of color (”not a single African American spoke on camera”). 

READ: Has Central Texas barbecue forgotten its African-American roots?

Vaughn suggests a plethora of innovative Texas barbecue restaurants that Chang looked over including Austin’s acclaimed Kemuri Tatsu-Ya. 

He ends his piece asking friends to stop recommending the barbecue episode saying if Change “just paid more attention to Texas, he’d find that plenty of people have been messing with Texas barbecue, to great results.”

Read Vaughn’s Texas Monthly take in full here

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