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A person stands in a room with various framed pictures and artwork on the wall behind them, smiling at the camera and wearing an apron over a T-shirt. A red table and shelving are in the background.

Nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s 2024 Best New Restaurant award, pitmaster and co-founder of Barbs-B-Q, Chuck Charnicart is making a name for herself far beyond the official barbecue capital of Texas, Lockhart. Inspired by the dishes of her heritage and hometown straddling the Texas-Mexico border, she’s combining the best of both worlds to push culinary boundaries in new ways. When it comes to embodying the Don’t Go Gently spirit, we tip our hat to Chuck and ask for seconds. Read on for her take on what a great meal should mean, how she got her start, and an unexpected favorite on the menu (that’s not brisket). Hope you brought your appetite!

Front entrance of Barbs BQ restaurant with a red ribbon cutting ceremony set up, a sign on the door displaying the address as 102 E. Market St, and a chalkboard indicating where the line starts.

Q:

Behind every great barbecued meal is a great pitmaster.

A:

"Texas Barbecue is so unique, so Texan that the rest of the world seeks to replicate Texas-style BBQ. This identity brings in strangers from all over to enjoy a meal that is so special and carefully crafted — it is difficult to not become obsessed. I fell into barbecue because it is a labor of love, one that comes with sore legs and back pain — but oh so rewarding once you see someone bite into yummy brisket."

Q:

We heard you hail from Brownsville. Proudly Texas-based ourselves, the Lone Star style really does it for us. What makes it so darn tasty, and how are you putting your own signature spin on it?

A:

"At Barbs, our menu is South Texas (Valley) influenced. I grew up frequenting Mexico with my family and they made anything taste really good despite having limited resources. A proper meal should nourish the body and touch the heart. That is the goal at Barbs."

A food counter with a menu board listing items such as brisket, pork ribs, turkey, lamb chops, sausage, green beans, spaghetti, stew, charro beans, pudding, and cobbler. Two refrigerators are behind the counter.
A red tray holds grilled ribs, sliced brisket, and burnt ends, accompanied by guacamole pasta, diced avocado salad, and a black bean and corn salad with crumbled cheese. Plastic cutlery is placed on the tray.

Q:

The world of barbecue is a fairly male-dominated niche within the wider culinary world. Is there anyone who took you under their wing — and do you see more women taking up the tongs?

A:

"Yes. At the time I started working in BBQ (2017), your typical pitmaster was an older male. It still is, but it is changing and we are starting to see more women in leadership positions in the smokehouse. Jonny White from the current #1 BBQ Restaurant in Texas (Texas Monthly Top 50) allowed me to venture into a cooking role at Goldee’s. This opportunity allowed me to lock in and I took every day there for almost three years as a student… writing down observations and experimenting every variable by making mistakes and/or improving."

Q:

Lockhart has a special place in our hearts. What other must-see stops should folks make if they're in town?

A:

"Best Little Wine is my favorite cozy corner in Lockhart, if you are having any kind of day. This is the spot to relax or make friends with strangers."

A person wearing a black "CLARIS" T-shirt and black apron stands smiling in a commercial kitchen setting with a flower vase on the counter behind them.
A row of large outdoor metal barbecue grills with lids, showing signs of rust and use, lined up under a covered area with a tree and building in the background.

Q:

Here's a tough one. If you could only have one thing off of your menu, what are you ordering? Please save some extra…


A:

"Pork Stew, haha. It is a comfort side that can be a whole meal within itself!"

Credits

Interview By

Team Tecovas