For the Love of BBQ – Pit master Joseph Whalen
From working on commercial fishing vessels to pit master – our very own Joseph Whalen turned his passion for backyard barbecue into becoming Pit master at the best Central Texas BBQ joint in the Pacific Northwest! Read about his journey and why he loves the art of smoking meat…
Where are you from originally?
I lived in the Central Valley in California up until about three or four years ago when I moved up here. I was working on the fishing boats up in Alaska and we would always sail out of Seattle. We were processing salmon in the summer and grey cod in the winter after fishing boats offloaded their catch to us. When I wasn’t on the water, I spent some time exploring the area and saw what a beautiful place it was. It kind of reminded me of San Francisco but quite a bit cleaner. Then I met my wife and she kept me up here for good!
How did you get into the food business?
Well, kind of by luck actually. I’d been barbecuing all my life and was really passionate about it and I wanted to follow that passion. In California we grill a lot and I’d been doing it since I was a little kid. But on the west coast, we don’t know that grilling is much different than what people call BBQ in other parts of the country. For example, the Tri Tip is what people know as brisket – and most people have never even tried brisket that’s been smoked properly. So, I just came down here to Jack’s one day thinking that I wanted to get into the industry. I spent a little time talking to the pit master at the time to learn about the job. He gave me a chance and taught me how to BBQ and when he took off Jack passed down the torch to me. It wasn’t until I met Jack that I learned the true art of BBQ.
Did you ever dream of being a pit master?
I always watched BBQ shows on TV like everyone else but I feel like it was something I’d always done. You know, for big events and stuff for friends and family and the like. I would do hundreds of pounds of meat at a time – but I’d never done it professionally. I worked on open pits the same size of these smokers (20-24′ long at Jack’s BBQ) – opened with the crank and full of ribs, chicken, tri tip. And in a way, it’s a lot harder because you’re cooking with real heat and flames and you have to be a lot faster. Here it’s a little easier physically – you throw in the meat, work the fire, use great wood and 12 hours later, you come out with a great brisket. It’s just done on a much bigger scale here and done the right way – low, slow and with a much better flavor.
If you could add to the menu here what would it be?
Maybe brisket tacos – corn tortilla soft shell tacos. Like street tacos. They dry out super fast so you have to eat them quickly but they are just so good.
What are your favorite places to eat in town?
I like sushi at Japonessa and I like burgers at Zippy’s in Georgetown. Oh, and pho at Dong Thap down on Jackson.
What is your karaoke song?
I sing Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd because it’s the longest song ever and people get sick of it. And when I’m up again – I sing the exact same song just to piss people off. They yell get off the mic!
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