LeAnn Mueller, owner of the soon-to-be brick and mortar La Barbecue trailer, chatted with Texas Monthly (where she is also a contributing photographer) as part of barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn’s interview series. Mueller spoke about growing up in a famous barbecue family, making her own way in photography before finding her way back to the meat smoking business, and how much she has learned from La Barbecue pitmaster—and former Franklin employee—John Lewis. Here are the 12 best lines from the interview.
On being a resourceful teenager in Taylor, Texas and working summers at the family joint, Louie Mueller Barbecue: "That was back when they had the beer bottles you could recycle. We’d load them up, but put full beers in there before we took them back to the car. We would be set for the weekend."
On whether her friends worked at Louie Mueller with her: "Some, but most of them did other jobs like counting bugs."
On persuading her Dad, famous pitmaster Bob Mueller, to try out new sausage ideas: "He’d roll his eyes and tell me "No" about a hundred times. Then he’d finally give in…There would not be jalapeño sausage or chipotle sausage without me."
On character building and sausage making: "My dad gave me a dull knife and chunk of frozen bull meat, and was like ‘Go for it.’"
On spending a summer living in the pitch black and haunted Louie Mueller Barbecue office: "It was crazy, but it was really fun because you could get up at any time and get some cheese, or drink a beer."
On her dad not really knowing what receiving a James Beard Award was all about: "He just knew he had to rent a tux."
On people today being amazed about barbecue lines: "They’ve always been there. I think they were a lot slower then too."
On stepping up and taking the reins of the trailer after her brother John Mueller left, even though she didn’t really want to be back in barbecue in the first place: "I had to. I had people that were expected money to be paid."
On learning how to cook barbecue in a new, team-oriented way from John Lewis: "I think John Mueller is a dying breed of pitmasters who do it all themselves."
…And why that means she holds herself to a high standard: "I still haven’t had better barbecue than my dad’s. If one man can do it on his own, then our group of nine should be able to do it."
On finally understanding the fullness of what her mom and dad had to do: "It’s one thing to put the product together everyday, but it’s another to make sure there’s enough money in the account to pay the Sysco bill."
On why barbecue is being seen with so much more of a critical eye than it was fifty years ago: "Those damn barbecue critics."
— Sofia Sokolove