Joe Riscky’s family has owned a grocery store in Fort Worth for 90 years, and that’s where Joe grew up—around food. His first job at age 16 was as a busboy in the family business. His dad was a working-class guy, Joe remembers, and that’s what he always admired about him. “He had an amazing work ethic. He was a hands-on guy who knew the mechanics of barbecue, and made his own smokers.”
“He was the kind of guy who would work all week and then go up to the farm and cut firewood on Sunday. If the tractor or the truck was broken, he would fix it himself.”
Barbecue started with the Spanish learning cooking techniques from Caribbean natives in the 1700s. By the 1900s it was a popular Southern dish, served with cornbread because corn grew better than wheat. It followed the cowboys all the way up the Chisolm Trail to places like Kansas City and St. Louis, but outside Texas, Joe says, barbecue changes. “In Texas, real barbecue is beef. Brisket is the crown jewel. Salt, pepper, garlic is essential to Texas BBQ. Once you leave Texas, pork becomes more prevalent.”
Joe has devoted himself to the art of barbecue, from the wood he chooses, Post Oak, not hickory, to the smoker he uses, to custom rubs that he makes himself. What makes Joe Riscky unique is his hands-on approach to barbecue, starting with tradition and combining that with the best-quality meats. “You have to know where it’s sourced and how it’s raised. I use Midwest sourced beef, all natural heritage breed pork and air chilled all natural poultry.”
Now he’s helping contribute to the legacy of Texas barbecue by keeping the knowledge alive with his involvement with Food Ways of Texas, which helps to preserve Texas cooking traditions by passing them on. Riscky is a regular panelist on such Texas traditions as smoker construction, wood selection, and meat cuts.
He brings all that knowledge to his latest venture, Joe Riscky’s Barbeque. His approach has been well-received by diners, who couldn’t get enough of his limited pop-up appearances. “I started out doing pop ups and catering, and now it’s turning into plans for so much more.”
He’s set out to really study the mastery of barbecue, its roots and its tradition, and then bring that to life in a truly authentic way. “I draw my inspiration from the great pit masters who came before me. The old-school BBQ guys figured everything out, and I want to respect them and carry on the legacy of the original BBQ pioneers.”
Joe Riscky is a native Texan, historian, and preservationist. But don’t call Joe Riscky a chef, because he’s a Texas pit master.