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Texas Barbecue Legend John Mueller Dies at 52

The skilled pitmaster was behind the scene at some of Texas’s most important barbecue joints including JMueller BBQ and Hutchins BBQ

A tray of barbecued meats in front of a Texas flag.
Barbecue from John Mueller Meat Co.
Nick Solares/E
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

John Mueller, one of Texas’s legendary pitmasters, died the week of December 17, 2021, at the age of 52 in Frisco, as initially reported by Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn and confirmed by Austin 360.

Mueller had opened and cooked under various ventures throughout his life, but wherever he was, he was known for creating perfect yet simple brisket and hefty tender smoked beef ribs, as well as his signature side, the iconic cheesy squash.

Mueller comes from barbecue royalty; he’s the son of the late Bobby Mueller and grandson of the late Louie Mueller. The family is behind the famous Taylor, Texas, joint Louie Mueller Barbecue, where he started working as young as six years old setting up and cleaning the restaurant.

After attending Texas Tech University, Mueller opened his first barbecue restaurant in Austin on Manor Road, John Mueller BBQ, which operated from 2001 to 2006. Then, following a pause, he joined his sister LeAnn Mueller in opening her new South First barbecue truck in Austin in 2011 — JMueller BBQ; he left the business in 2012. (LeAnn changed the name of the truck to La Barbecue.)

For Mueller’s next venture, he opened East Sixth barbecue truck John Mueller Meat Co. in 2013, which closed in 2016. During that time, he notably smoked beef ribs for President Barack Obama during a fundraising event in Dallas in 2014.

Then, in 2017, Mueller started cooking for a new barbecue trailer, Black Box Barbecue, up in Georgetown, which eventually shuttered in 2019. From 2019 to 2020, he made barbecue at now-closed Granger City Brewing. His last independent venture was anchoring food-and-drink development the Granary in 2020 in Jarrell, which he left earlier in 2021.

More recently, Mueller joined the team of Frisco barbecue restaurant Hutchins BBQ, where he had been cooking ever since it reopened earlier in the summer of 2021. The restaurant was named one of Texas Monthly’s best barbecue restaurants.

Along with Mueller’s excellent food, he had been known for his “grumpy” and ”crankypersona, to the point where Texas Monthly gave him the nickname of “Dark Prince of Texas Barbecue.”

People have been sharing their remembrances of Mueller through Vaughn’s Twitter page.

LeAnn Mueller is hosting a remembrance for her brother at La Barbecue on Sunday, January 30, 2022 with free barbecue and drinks for sale starting at noon.

Update, January 28, 2022, 10:16 a.m.: This article, originally published on December 17, 2021, has been updated to include information about the remembrance event at La Barbecue.