Daniel Vaughn just scored what some might consider to be the world’s best job: barbecue editor for Texas Monthly. And while it’s not the first time that someone has held that title, he’s the only current one in existence.
Vaughn grew up in Ohio, went to Tulane University, and moved to Dallas, Texas, shortly thereafter. In 2006 he decided to take a three-day road trip with a buddy to hit 16 different barbecue joints, and his moment of enlightenment arrived in the form of brisket and beef ribs at Louie Mueller’s: "It was just overwhelming how much better that barbecue was than anything I had ever had before," he told The Daily Meal. "I thought, 'Now I get it!'"
Vaughn started a blog, called Full Custom Gospel BBQ, and spent his nights and weekends seeking out the best in the state. He built a relationship with Texas Monthly editors, including editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein, and when the magazine decided to move forward with its plans to hire a barbecue editor, Vaughn was at the top of their list.
"Nobody else is as well-suited to the gig," Silverstein told us. "His writing and reporting is beyond compare, and he doesn’t treat it like some funny thing. He has very high standards, and thinks nothing of eating at 10 barbecue joints in a weekend."
Besides the obvious perk of being able to eat barbecue and write about it for a living, Vaughn is also looking forward to a few added bonuses. "It’ll be my full-time position, so I’ll have more time than just nights and weekends to devote to barbecue," he said. "I’ll be reporting the beat, and I’ll be keeping up with news, openings, and closings, and I’ll be able to get more in-depth with the people who make it happen. Not just the pitmasters, but also the wood suppliers and pit makers. I won’t have the hindrance of distance and time, so the handcuffs will really come off. I’ll be able to really explore all the variations of barbecue throughout the state."
From an editorial standpoint, Silverstein has high expectations. "He’ll be in the field all the time, reviewing and re-reviewing, because it’s tough to stay consistent," he said. "He’ll be looking for diamonds in the rough, writing about history and culture, and covering events and festivals."
And while it might appear that so much has been written about barbecue in recent years that there’s not much else out there to say, Vaughn wholeheartedly disagrees.
"By the most recent count, there are about 1,600 barbecue joints in Texas," he said. "I’ve only been to 600, so I’ve still got a ways to go!"
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.