Grillers' dreams steeped in smoke at Texas Camp Brisket

Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:57pm EST
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By Jon Herskovitz

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (Reuters) - To the members of Camp Brisket, listening to Aaron Franklin discuss the role of smoke in slow-cooking a piece of meat was like watching Hank Aaron break down his home run swing or Joe Montana give tips on how to mount a Super Bowl winning drive.

About 100 campers came last week to Texas A&M University's Meat Science and Technology Center to learn from the greatest pit masters in the state, including Franklin, to cook brisket. It can take a day to turn the somewhat cheap cut into a mouth-watering meal, but it takes years of dedication to make it sublime.

The cost was as high as $550 per person for the two-day event. Tickets sold out in less than five minutes.

To many aspiring grillers, this was barbecue fantasy camp.

"Next to football in Texas, barbecue is kind of a religion. These guys are like the coaches of the most successful football teams," said Pat Reardon, a surgeon from Houston who came with his wife.

The big names at Camp Brisket may not bask in the same celebrity status as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. But their restaurants, like Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor often have far more name recognition than most politicians.

In Franklin's case, his Austin joint was sought out by President Barack Obama, who cut the long line with many apologies, to sample the brisket during a trip to the Texas capital last year.

The campers, including a TV executive, lawyers, doctors and a few members of the Texas diaspora who cannot find properly cooked meat in their new homes, have mostly mastered simpler staples of the barbecue menu such as pulled pork.   Continued...

Students at Camp Brisket listen to a lecture at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas January 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz