Chef’s Table, the popular Netflix documentary series, has turned its cameras towards barbecue. In four new episodes released earlier this week, the show visits Sydney chef Lennox Hastie, South Carolina pitmaster Rodney Scott, Mexican chef Rosalia Chay Chuc, and pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz of Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Texas.
Barbecue fans likely need little introduction to Tomanetz. The 85-year old has helmed the pits at Snow’s since it opened in 2003. When Texas Monthly ranked it as the state’s number one barbecue joint in 2008, Snow’s went from sleepy small town restaurant to a worldwide destination. Snow's earned the top spot in the magazine's 2018 list, too, cementing its status as one of the state's most legendary barbecue joints.
Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn supplies some perspective on what sets Snow’s apart. He notes the restaurant cooks it meats over coals that supply direct heat rather than in the offset smokers that have become common statewide. The episode dutifully shows Tomanetz shoveling hot coals into giant metal smokers, checking Snow’s signature pork steaks for doneness, and applying her mop sauce to various meats.
In addition, Snow’s wraps its briskets in foil rather than the standard peach paper, which provides Vaughn with the opportunity to engage in some of Chef’s Table’s signature myth-making.
“I don’t know why a Snow’s brisket tastes so good and so different,” he says. “When you take a bite of it, it’s like how did that happen. Maybe there’s some magic that happens within that aluminum foil. I don’t know.”
While viewers may be familiar with Tomanetz’s professional accomplishments, they may not know her personal story. In a series of interviews with Tomanetz and Snow’s owner Kerry Bexley, the shows reveals how Tomanetz started cooking barbecue alongside her husband White at the City Meat Market in Giddings. After White suffered a stroke, Tomanetz sold the business to care for him, ultimately taking a job as a custodian at Giddings High School — a position she holds to this day.
Tomanetz suffered another tragedy when her son Hershey died of brain cancer in 2016. Prior to his death, mother and son repaired their rocky relationship over long conversations held while tending the pits at Snow’s.
Thankfully, Tomanetz isn’t alone. She tells us how much support she receives from the legions of fans who flock to Snow’s, stand in its lengthy line for heaping trays of barbecue, and ask her for hugs and selfies. This point in the episode may be when it suddenly gets a little dusty in your living room.
If anything, the episode will make barbecue fans nostalgic for the pre-Covid road trips to far-flung destinations in search of superlative barbecue. Sadly, Snow’s remains closed for dine-in service (they ship meats nationwide), but the episode serves as a potent reminder of pilgrimages to Lexington for Miss Tootsie’s signature meats. Hopefully, we get to return to Snow’s soon — if nothing else, the episode will trigger a deep craving for pork steak and sausage that can only be sated by a visit.