"I don't think any animal should give their life up and not have every part of it used somehow, someway," LeAnn Mueller, the owner of La Barbecue in Austin, Texas, declared. For many, this statement would be something expected from an animal rights' visionary and not from the owner of a Southern barbecue trailer.
Usually, barbecue is seen as a little slice of carnivore heaven where the treatment of animals and meat (past the quality of its marbling) are considered superfluous claims by plant loving propagandists. LeAnn believes, however, that considerate sourcing of meat is "the [new] direction of barbecue. Actually, that's the direction barbecue needs to go in."
In fact, she is so concerned about the treatment of the animals she serves to her customers that she is willing to pay a premium to do so, including putting her reputation on the line.
Regardless, "I want to be the woman that sets it [the meat sourcing standard] in Texas and I want to be the lesbian that sets it in Texas," she insists.
Going Back to Her Roots
La Barbecue is the result of collaboration forged over the coals of smoldering controversy. After a publicized falling out with her brother in 2012, LeAnn teamed up with Franklin's first pit boss and made him the barbecue general of her newly minted barbecue trailer.
In short order, John Lewis constructed one-of-a-kind convection style smokers and tweaked the recipes - most notably the sauce - to help raise La Barbecue into the upper echelons of barbecue society. At that time, however, La Barbecue had not ventured into offering sustainable options on their menu. That came with the departure of John Lewis.
In fact, LeAnn's newest meat smoking general, Brendan Lamb, revealed, "Since he's been gone, LeAnn has brought it back to the way Bobby used to do it." That means, everything has gone back to the land.
LeAnn elaborates on their ethos. "With the grass-fed, with the no hormones, you're actually going back to eating the muscle where the other ones that are the commodity meats, you taste the fat," she explains. As a result of their insistence on quality, LeAnn asserts that their meat requires no sauce.
She even goes as far as claiming that doing so is the equivalent of "putting ketchup on a steak."
"I think sometimes they [sauces] can be used to cover up something. I think a lot of barbecue places do it because they aren't properly cooking their meat." And at La Barbecue, properly cooking the meat involves a long, slow repose upon the smoker; 16 hours for the briskets to be exact.
LeAnn's Deep Family Ties to Barbecue
La Barbecue's transcendence into a stop on the barbecue pilgrimage route should be no surprise to anyone who knows the history of the woman behind the scenes. She is, after all, the daughter of Bobby Mueller of Louis Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas.
Despite being raised by the first man in Texas to win a James Beard Award for his pit-smoked meats, she smiles cheekily as she remembers, "I was vegan working at my dad's place."
She continued her resistance to taking over the family business by indulging her nomadic tendencies, but eventually, LeAnn found herself back in the Lone Star State right where she started - surrounded by the dual fires of a Texas summer and an open pit barbecue. And from the ashes she built an altar to both barbecue and her father.
As she mused over memories of her past, she admitted that, in the end, we all return home. Even as the purveyor of one of the pinnacles of barbecue, for LeAnn it all comes back to one thing: family. "I do this for my dad," she concludes simply.
Upcoming in Los Angeles
Those of you in California, keep your eyes open: Come September, La Barbecue will be opening its doors to residents of the Golden State.
You will be able to find their newest trailer at downtown LA's new Smorgasburg. And LeAnn wants all you Californians to know, "The pit is built and ready to go."
Editor's Note: As of November 3, 2017, the Los Angeles location of La Barbecue is still coming soon. We will keep our Californians updated on just when they can sink their teeth into a La Barbecue beef rib soon.