Barbecue’s the theme of the next series of Chef’s Table, the renowned and Emmy Award-nominated Netflix food documentary series. The premiere episode of Chef’s Table: BBQ, out as of September 2, is centered on one of the very best and adored pitmasters in Texas: Tootsie Tomanetz of Snow’s BBQ.
The first installment covers the 85-year-old Texas native’s life and how she became the legendary pitmaster that she is today. Norma Frances Tomanetz (aka Tootsie), worked alongside her husband Edward Tomanetz (aka White) at City Meat Market in Giddings, which is where she learned how to butcher and barbecue. The couple ended up buying the Lexington location of the restaurant, but had to sell it after he had a stroke. She started working as a custodian at the Giddings Independent School District, and joined Snow’s BBQ in 2003. Several years later, the barbecue joint was named as the best in the state by Texas Monthly in 2008, and the team had to deal with the overwhelming response and lines, while she confronted the deaths of her husband in 2015 and son Hershey, who worked alongside her.
With that, here are the best 11 lines from Tomentaz’s Chef’s Table episode:
1. Tomanetz on the positive community around barbecue: “Barbecue brings people together. It gives the people time to visit with each other more. People just kind of slow down to speak to one another and look at the bright side of life. A lot of people don’t realize what a wonderful feeling that is.”
2. Tomanetz on growing up on a farm at the end of the Depression: “We learned how to make things work without help. We were taught to handle the situation ourselves. It was my training, I guess. It gave me the fullness of knowing that I can handle quite a bit of stuff. I can take care of myself.”
3. Tomanetz on seeing her husband-to-be White for the first time in person: “And one day, Daddy waved me to the house, I walk up, and there stands this Army guy in a uniform, and I thought, ‘God dang, he is nice looking.’”
4. Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn on taste of Snow’s BBQ’s brisket: “When you take a bite of it, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, how did that happen?’ Maybe there’s some magic that happens within that aluminum foil?”
5. Tomanetz on how she cooks the meat: “At Snow’s, we have no secrets. I mean, our seasoning is salt and pepper. I can’t tell you how hot my pits are because I feel ’em with my hands. I don’t have a gauge there. I guess if I’d put a gauge on, I’d learn to read it and not my hand, but it’s just something I do. I guess it’s just an instinct.”
6. Kerry Bexler on opening Snow’s BBQ in 2003: “When I had the idea of starting up a barbecue, I felt like the locals wouldn’t be very forgiving had I started this without Miss Tootsie.”
7. Tomanetz on Snow’s best barbecue accolade from Texas Monthly in 2008: “It’s something you have done all your life, and you’re finally being recognized for it. But at the same time, to have all this fame? It was just a strange feeling.”
8. Tomanetz on working the pits with her son Hershey, which acted essentially as family therapy: “Me and Hershey, we really didn’t see eye to eye [...] It was just the two of us together doing the cooking, so we would kind of have it out at the barbecue pit when no one else was around. You know you have to sometimes just talk to get it off your chest, and barbecuing together, we were able to understand each other better. We got all our bad things ironed out. It’s just something that we both needed.”
9. Tomanetz on the support of the community after the deaths of her husband and son, despite her independent tendencies: “I feel a lot of support when I’m down and out. I feel a connection. I really do. It’s the close-knit barbecue family. They’re holding me up, they’re walking with me.”
10. Unnamed female voiceover: “I will be the next Miss Tootsie.”
11. Tomanetz on her future: “I have no idea what else lies in the barbecue world for me.”