What's Eric Eating Episodes 347 and 348
Powerhouse Texas pitmaster and prolific photographer dish on award-winning Burnt BBQ joint
On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Ernest Servantes and Robert Jacob Lerma join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler in a free-flowing conversation about barbecue, whiskey, and more. Servantes is the chef-owner of Burnt Bean Company, a barbecue restaurant in Seguin, and Lerma is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in publications across the country.
The two men began their friendship when Servantes was rising up the ranks of the competition barbecue circuit and Lerma was establishing his reputation as a photographer. They’ve traveled across the United States and beyond eating barbecue and teaching it to others. All of those experiences fueled Servantes’s desire to open a restaurant.
Since Burnt Bean opened in late 2020, it has earned wide acclaim, including being ranked the fourth best barbecue joint in the state by Texas Monthly and earning a 2023 James Beard Award finalist nomination in the category of Best Chef: Texas for Servantes and his business partner David Kirkland.
What sets Burnt Bean apart is the way Servantes blends traditional meats with sides inspired by his Mexican heritage and childhood in Uvalde, Texas. The restaurant has become known for its Sunday brunch service that features different specials every week.
“Basically what I’m doing is inviting you to my house growing up on a Sunday morning after church. I took my grandparents' and parents' recipes and tweaked them,” Servantes says. “I gave you what I wanted you to eat. We get a lot of people who ask ‘hey, can I get [somethine else]?’ No, there’s no substitutions, other than if a kid under five wants a scrambled egg. Other than that, you’re gonna eat what I want to serve you, because you’re invited to my house.”
“It’s Mexican soul food. It’s super loud and crazy. We call it the Mexican Waffle House. You’ve got short order cooking and the music blaring in the background. You’re eating the cuisine I was raised with. You’re eating the tacos, the huevos Rancheros. I get to do it once a week where I can really spread my culinary wings.”
Listen to the full episode to hear the two friends discuss the current state of Texas barbecue, Servantes’ thoughts on being nominated for a James Beard Award, and Lerma’s take on the current state of Texas whiskey. The two men also share memories of John Brotherton, the popular Austin-area pitmaster who passed away last month.
In this week’s other episode, Felice Sloan joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the 11 Houston-area chefs and restaurants who earned semifinalist nominations for the James Beard Awards; the sudden closure of Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company; and restaurateur Claire Smith’s plans to close Alice Blue at the end of February.
In the restaurant of the week segment, they visit Tavola, the new Italian fine dining restaurant from Berg Hospitality. Listen to hear their thoughts on its transformation from La Table and which dishes they’d order again.