How Texas BBQ writer Jimmy Ho turned a favorite food and hobby into a semi-professional gig that drives his wife crazy.
“When Daniel Vaughn gave me that Texas Monthly gig, I thought, writing about BBQ could lead to something."
Jimmy’s Ho's love affair with Texas BBQ first began back in college, when he went with his UT fraternity to Salt Lick BBQ outside Austin. Although it wasn’t his first time eating barbecue (he grew up in Houston), “It was my first memorable moment of eating barbecue,” says Ho. “I was 19 years old, it was BYOB, it was all-you-can-eat BBQ, it was the setting, it was the whole experience and ambience.” It also helped that Ho generally loves to eat, and particularly loves to eat barbecue. Texas barbecue continued to be a staple in his diet during his “poor college student” years, including a weekly 2-for-1 chopped beef sandwich at a local joint that has long since closed up shop.
Fast forward to 2009, when Ho had Franklin’s for the first time. His love for barbecue was reborn, and further enhanced by his move to Lockhart, where he was able to explore traditional Texas BBQ from its very roots. Around the same time, Ho got really into running, and began blogging about his journey to running marathons. It wasn't long before he was blogging about barbecue too, and within the first year, started gaining traction as a local barbecue authority, scoring a Texas Monthly gig through the magazine’s Barbecue Editor, Daniel Vaughn, whom he met in the Texas BBQ circuit. "When Daniel gave me that Texas Monthly gig, I thought, writing about BBQ could really lead to something."
Ho has eaten barbecue all over Texas and all over the world, and while he has yet to check out the barbecues of the Carolinas and Kansas City, it’s easy for him to say that Texas barbecue sets the bar. “It starts with brisket,” says Ho, explaining that Texas’ mastery of beef makes it difficult to compete with. “Brisket isn’t even on others’ mind when they smoke meat—they chop it up—the love for beef just isn’t that great.” Internationally, Ho says, The Beast in Paris comes close, but for the most part, joints outside of Texas are "generally trying to mimic Texas barbecue with what resources they have".
In 2017, Ho ate barbecue 266 and times. While he has yet to tire of it, his wife Amber feels differently. “She’s already sick of it. She’s been sick of it for two years,” says Ho. “When we travel, she limits our barbecue meal to one place.”
So what do they eat when they’re not eating barbecue? “Both my parents are from Vietnam, and my mom is Chinese, so I grew up eating Asian food,” says Ho. He considers Texas’ best cuisines to be Austin's barbecue, Tex-Mex, and Houston’s Asian food.
While Ho still holds a full-time job, his real passion and expertise lies in Texas BBQ eating and writing, his opinion among the most sought after and lauded in the community. He's got a good amount of ads and sponsorships on his blog, he’s invited to every BBQ event in and out of town, and there isn’t a BBQ joint in Texas where he doesn’t get recognized and approached. With all the BBQ he eats and writes about, does he see himself tiring of it like his wife has? Not likely. “I’m just gonna keep doing what I love until my doctor says otherwise.” We’ll be following every bite.
photo courtesy of @thesmokingho
photo courtesy of @thesmokingho