LeAnn Mueller — the legendary chef, pitmaster, and co-owner of Austin smoked meats restaurant La Barbecue — died suddenly this week on Wednesday, June 14, according to a press release. She was 51 years old.
LeAnn Mueller came from a family devoted to barbecue, it ran in their blood. She was the daughter of barbecue great the late Bobby Mueller and Patricia “Trish” Mueller. Her grandfather Louie Mueller started the legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, in 1949. Bobby took over the restaurant in 1974, during which it received one of the James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classic Restaurants Awards in 2006. LeAnn’s brother Wayne oversaw the restaurant.
Naturally, LeAnn wanted to open her own barbecue business. She started with a food truck with her other brother and pitmaster John in 2011, JMueller BBQ. John left in 2012, and LeAnn changed the name of the truck to La Barbecue, which she opened with then-girlfriend Ali Clem; the two got married in 2014. Their barbecue spot went through different food truck locations, and then a counter-space within East Austin market Quickie Pickie in 2017, and then into its first-ever standalone restaurant on East Cesar Chavez in 2021. They split their time between Austin and Los Angeles. (At one point they had plans to open a La Barbecue in LA but that ultimately didn’t come to fruition.)
In the meantime, John ran and worked at several barbecue trucks and restaurants through the years, most recently at Frisco barbecue restaurant Hutchins BBQ. He passed away in December 2021 at the age of 52.
Along with barbecue, Mueller was a renowned photographer and portraitist, capturing photographs of people like Jay Z, Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges, Courtney Barnett, and St. Vincent for publications like Texas Monthly, Rolling Stone, Paste, and Austin Monthly.
Mueller is survived by Clem, their pups Mr. Pickles and Bobby Dingle, and nephew Johnson. Information about the funeral will come later.