Michael Warren and the Soul of Barbeque with Weber
Don’t confuse barbeque with a cookout. Throwing a couple burgers on the grill is different from meticulously balancing dry rubs and sauces on meat that’s been smoking for hours. BBQ has history in pockets all over the country, with regional tastes and variations as diverse as the people who eat it. One of the most iconic grill companies in the world, Weber, is known for making cookouts happen all summer long, but this year they wanted to bring some focus to barbeque in their annual cookbook this year called “Weber's New American Barbecue: A Modern Spin on the Classics.” The culinary tome is packed with recipes and step-by-step instructions, but they needed something with a little more soul. So they asked Michael Warren to help them out. “The spin this year was barbeque, and different ways of approaching it,” says Michael. “My assignment was to travel around the US and visit BBQ joints that are doing something a little different with a little twist, and then they were used as editorial breaks throughout the book.”
Michael got to travel all over, visiting ten different barbeque joints, getting to know the people who work there, eat there, and make them unique. Traditionally, cookbook photography is rooted in the details and making sure that every floret and au jus is perfectly in place, but Michael offers something else. Something that Weber needed for their book. “They wanted it to feel more personal,” Michael explains. “They wanted to feel the juice. They wanted to celebrate the authenticity of it, and they wanted it to look like you want to eat it, as opposed to want to admire the photograph.” There’s more to making your stomach grumble than symmetry and Michael knows exactly how to make it sing in a photograph.
Part of the joy of traveling all over the country chasing barbeque is that he got to learn about different styles and sample each of them. His favorite? A steak called The Eisenhower in Plano, Texas. “It’s a T-bone steak with the still T on it,” says Michael. “They get the coals going really hot and they throw the piece of meat right onto the grill. They pull it off, and they slice it up. It serves four so it’s kind of put out on the table on a chopping block. It’s absolutely delicious just to see it.”
This is the part of the story where we’d wrap it up with a thoughtful conclusion but we’re too hungry for that. Maybe after lunch…