Thank You for Smoking: Meet Hill Country Barbecue Market BK's Master of Meat
His father was from North Carolina, but Ash Fulk didn't really fall in love with barbecue until he went out and visited his family after his grandma died. On that trip, he started getting acquainted with southern fare, and he began requesting fried chicken and mashed potatoes or a trip to a barbecue restaurant each year for his birthday.
All photos by Hill Country Barbecue Market
By that time, Fulk had been cooking in California since high school. "School was never my thing," he says, so a girlfriend helped him get a job in the kitchen at a restaurant where she was a server. His first task there was to dice an onion, a chore that took him an hour and a half. "I knew nothing," he says. But he kept going back, and eventually, he worked his way onto the line and then decided to become a chef.
He moved to New York and spent a few years as chef de cuisine of Trestle on Tenth -- fueling his barbecue habit at Dinosaur on birthdays -- and then did a season of Top Chef. When he came off of that, he was trying to figure out his next move when a friend suggested he try his hand at barbecue. "I was trailing at Le Cirque when I got the call from Hill Country," Fulk says. "I was like, I like barbecue, why don't I just do that?"
Hill Country Barbecue Market was one of the early barbecue entrants in the New York market, and it made its name on Texas-style smoked meats served by the pound on butcher paper. Fulk learned the ropes of the region's brisket in Manhattan, and then last year, he saw Hill Country through an expansion to Brooklyn (345 Adams Street, Brooklyn; 718-885-4608).
In this interview, Fulk weighs in on the evolution of New York City barbecue, why there are so many Texas-style parlors in the Big Apple, and how food television has helped normalize the industry.