Pitmaster Norma Frances "Tootsie" Tomanetz of Snow's BBQ had loyal local fans long before Texas Monthly thrust the Lexington-based barbecue joint from relative obscurity into the national barbecue arena back in 2008. But in naming the small dark-red building home of the "best barbecue in Texas" and bestowing it with a coveted five out of five rating, the magazine also set Tootsie on the path to becoming one of the country’s most famous pitmasters. Now eight years later, Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly's barbecue editor, takes a closer look at Tootsie. Here are the eight best lines from the story including how she got her start, the reason behind Snow’s barbecue breakfasts, and a snub from a Texas barbecue legend.
Tootsie got her start cooking barbecue in 1966 when City Meat Market in Giddings was shorthanded one day: "They asked me if I’d come in and help manage the pit," Tootsie recalls. "I told them I didn’t know anything about it, but I was willing to learn and do my best."
On how Snow's early 8 a.m. Saturday opening originated due to a misunderstanding between owner Kerry Bexley and a fact-checker at Texas Monthly in 2008: "...he blurted out his personal cell number and that Snow’s opened bright and early at 8 a.m. What he meant was, the sausage was usually ready that early for locals who happened to stop by for a quick bite. The rest of the barbecue didn’t come off the pit until around 10."
On her long-time blue jeans habit (which she calls "fancy slacks"): "She recalls that she ‘rode a horse a mile to the bus stop, and a dress was in [her] way to ride a horse.’"
On learning barbecue techniques from local black pitmaster Orange Holloway: "Tootsie remembers him as a great teacher, showing her how to cook ribs, chicken, and sausage in a brick smoker that’s still there today. But brisket wasn’t popular back then, and so you wouldn’t find it on the menu."
On Snow’s unpretentious beginnings: "Not looking to master any new tricks of the barbecue trade, Tootsie instructed Bexley to weld up a few steel pits to match the ones she’d been using for decades. They added some picnic tables and put up a sign."
On the third weekend after Texas Monthly’s recognition in 2008: "Snow’s had cooked 1,200 pounds, more barbecue than ever before, and it had sold out ninety minutes after opening."
The heated controversy that followed Texas Monthly’s article included this slight from Rick Schmidt, former owner of Kreuz Market: "Anybody can make great barbecue for a few hours on Saturday morning."
On if fame has changed her: "I still feel simple. I hope none of this has gone to my head so much that I don’t try to be polite to everyone."
- Snow’s Queen [Texas Monthly]
- How Snow's BBQ Rose From Obscurity to Texas Barbecue Stardom [E]