Georgia’s Second Generation
Myron Mixon and his 26-year-old son, Michael, are a study in old- and new-school barbecue. Myron, the lead pitmaster of Jack’s Old South Competition Bar-B-Que Team, speaks with a slow-asmolasses cadence you’d expect to hear in their tiny hometown of Unadilla, Ga. Michael talks in rapid-fire circles, with a grin as wide as a barn door.
His dad is a barbecue legend, but this isn’t a coattail ride for Michael. When he turned 19, he formed his own team and won the Georgia Barbecue Association circuit. Today he is one of the youngest pitmasters to lead a cook team and puts a millennial spin on his work.
“We’re playing with stuff that I would never affiliate with barbecue,” says Michael. That means tasting more than 40 different types of mango to develop a concentrate for a marinade, incorporating Asian flavors like ginger or applying Latin influences like habanero flakes. He plans to bring those fresh flavors to his brisket at the upcoming Kansas City American Royal World Series of Barbecue.
When Myron retires, Michael will take over the empire, but for now he’s building his own. He’s an ambassador for Cabo Wabo Tequila and has his own Food Network show, BBQ Rig Race, which follows four teams as they drive custom barbecue smokers across Texas.
Traditionally, barbecue restaurants cook food the owners were raised on. That often means brisket in Texas, whole hog in the Carolinas and pork in Memphis. But what if a pitmaster is from a melting pot like New York?
“In New York City, we don’t have rules. We’re not tied to the Texas Trinity of brisket, ribs and sausage, or cooking whole hog,” says Billy Durney. A former celebrity bodyguard, he left the security field to pursue his pitmaster dreams and open Hometown Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn’s Red Hook in 2013.
“At Hometown, we’re a canvas of the beautiful, multicultural, ethnic city that I grew up in,” says Durney, 45. “I spent time with Vietnamese grocers, owners of Korean restaurants and people from Oaxaca [Mexico] and the West Indies.” That translates to specialties like lamb belly Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, Korean sticky ribs and wood-fired Oaxacan chicken.