The co-founder of Franklin Barbecue has vowed to rebuild his world-famous smokehouse after a fire devastated the restaurant in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Aaron Franklin, the James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of the meat mecca in Austin, Texas, told Texas Monthly that he plans to reopen the restaurant after “completely replac[ing] the walls and the roof,” although he doesn’t have an exact date.
According to Franklin, the fire was at least partially caused by winds generated by Hurricane Harvey, which swept an ember out of his cooker.
“Wind just kind of swept through the smokehouse a lot more than we’re used to and carried an ember from a cooker and caught a wall on fire,” Franklin told the Washington Post. “It went up real quick.”
Franklin told Texas Monthly that he first got word of the fire at 5:37 a.m. and raced over to the scene in his car, but he admitted that he didn’t think the fire would be as serious as it was. He said he only started worrying when he realized he could see the smoke from the highway — and he arrived shortly afterward to find his smokehouse ablaze.
Firefighters from the Austin Fire Department worked throughout the morning to get the fire under control. When the flames were finally out, Franklin offered them brisket from an undamaged smoker. He also sent home the employee who was on-duty when the fire started, but not out of anger — instead, he gave the worker a bottle of whiskey and told him to get some rest.
“Anybody who cooks with fire the way we do is kidding themselves if they don’t think this is a possibility,” Franklin told Texas Monthly.
The Austin Fire Department assesses the damage to be somewhere in the range of $350,000, but Franklin told Austin 360 that it could have been a lot worse.
“There was not as much property loss as most restaurants would have,” he said, noting that the smokehouse took the brunt of the damage. The kitchen and dining area, on the other hand, didn’t suffer any significant structural damage.
It’s unclear when, exactly, Franklin Barbecue will reopen, but Franklin estimates it’ll be at least a month before they’re up and running again.
Franklin Barbecue is often hailed as one of the best barbecue restaurants in the country, winning the title of Best Barbecue Joint from Texas Monthly and Best Barbecue Joint in America from Bon Appetit.
A representative for the restaurant was not immediately available for comment.