VNA’s 2024 Celebrity Chef Aaron “Ultimate BBQ Pitmaster” Franklin Was Smoking Hot

May 10, 2024 5:30 PM by Jeanne Prejean

After years of culinary chefs holding court in the VNA with tours of the kitchen and presentations in the main room, its Celebrity Chef fundraiser went for a different feel — barbecue.

On Thursday, April 4, longtime supporters found the difference from the moment they stepped out of their cars at the VNA Haggerty Kitchen. Instead of heading to the main door, guests like Ben Leal, Caren Prothro, Pat Porter, Paula Lambert and Kersten Rettig were directed to the walkway leading to the building’s backyard terrace and tented patio. There, they discovered a fire pit and cornhole sets adjacent to the patio with a bar and a table of raffle items. On the upper-level terrace adjacent to the building was a small grill that would be a focal point in a while.

Over to the left side of the terrace was a group of men comparing notes. One was the man of the hour — Aaron Franklin, known in grill circles as the Ultimate Barbecue Pitmaster, renowned especially for his brisket.


Like a giddy teenager describing Taylor Swift, one middle-aged man was in awe, saying, “He makes the best barbecue in Texas and that means the world… and he’s so friendly and cool.” Talking to him whether one-on-one or with a group, he was just like any fellow hosting the neighbors over for a backyard get-together. But he also proved to have a self-deprecating nature about himself. When asked what his secret was to great barbecue, he didn’t hesitate, “Plenty of salt and patience.”

Then he was asked if he had learned his talents in his mother’s kitchen, or from great cooking mentors? Had he had a childhood dream of becoming the barbecue king?

Nope. None of the above. Actually having hailed from Bryan College Station, he headed to Austin at the age of 18 with the dream of a musical career as a drummer. But once there, he discovered drumming work was sporadic and so he found himself cooking between gigs.

One thing led to another with his setting the drums aside and focusing on the fine art of brisket perfection, lip-smacking sausage and juicy ribs. But as Aaron told the guests, he now plays a guitar as a sideline.

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