By Sherida Mock
Franklin is the famous name on the sauce-covered lips of every barbecue fan, not just in Austin, but around the world. He is owner of Franklin Barbecue, host of the PBS series “BBQ with Franklin,” and author of “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.” But the biggest role he plays is husband to his wife, Stacy, and father to his daughter, 2-year-old Vivian.
In honor of Father’s Day, he shared with us how his low-and-slow philosophy of cooking applies to parenthood, as well.
Austin Family: How do you manage family and work time?
Aaron: It’s hard, owning a restaurant, because we cook 24 hours a day here. Sometimes my shifts start at midnight, and sometimes I have to get here at 5 a.m. But it actually works out pretty okay, because I can get a lot of my work done while Viv is sleeping. Unfortunately, I also have to sleep sometimes. It’s tricky.
And then, we have to travel a fair bit for work. We’re going to Sweden this summer for a round of barbecue dinners, and she’s going. We did pop-up dinners all last summer, too, and she was at every one of those. We’re a traveling family.
Austin Family: Does Vivian travel well?
Aaron: Yeah, she really does, although we haven’t traveled overseas with her since last summer. She was 18 months old then. This time, she’s gonna be doing cartwheels up and down the aisles. It’s gonna be real hard to contain that one. She’s getting feisty.
Austin Family: What’s family time like at home?
Aaron: Viv loves to hang out in the kitchen, which is super cool. She’ll be sitting there with her little plastic knives or she’ll wipe the table when we’re done eating. She really loves to cook. She’s got her own little kitchen on the side of our kitchen. That’s what we do together. Stacy and I are lucky if we can be home for about 8 hours a day. I work an awful lot.
Austin Family: So, when Vivian arrived, did that do anything to your schedule?
Aaron: I don’t take a day off of work, ever. It never stops. But I actually took two days off when Vivian was born. But my schedule didn’t change. I was cooking a lot of ribs and doing a lot of overnight shifts, so I could get home after lunch. It was a good time for that.
We planned her. We’re big planners. We had been working for a long time so that Stacy could get out of the restaurant a little bit. My best friend, Benji Jacob, became the general manager and relieved Stacy of a lot of duties, allowing her to go be at home with Vivian for several months. We finagled it pretty well. We are definitely not 9-to-5ers.
Austin Family: What do you know about barbecue that you bring to parenting?
Aaron: All of it. It’s amazing. You know, that’s the thing about staring at fires: you have a lot of time to think. That’s one reason I like cooking the overnights. It’s the only alone time I ever get. It’s amazing all the similarities between cooking barbecue and parenting—that’s heart and soul you put into a piece of meat that took 20 hours to make.
If you put heart and soul and a lot of love into something, you can get that out of it. It’s kind of the same with a child. It’s kind of the same with life in general. Don’t take shortcuts.
Austin Family: How about consistency?
Aaron: If you’re going to play it by ear, you should do that all the time. Be consistent with it [laughs]. But you can’t accomplish much if you’re all over the place. You’ve got to be able to develop a clear plan, and it’s the same thing with raising a kid. It’s the same thing with running a restaurant.
Austin Family: What was your childhood like?
Aaron: I grew up with my grandparents living just up the street from us, so I spent time in both of the family businesses. My grandparents had a music store, which is where I started working when I was about 12. I pretty much had a full-time job by the time I was 13 or 14. And oddly enough, my parents ran a barbecue restaurant.
Austin Family: Does your daughter like barbecue?
Aaron: She’s had barbecue just twice. The first time was on her first birthday. We did little chopped beef sandwiches. She loved it! Of course she did; it’s got tons of sauce. Then about 3 months ago, we were hanging out up here one morning, and I had a particularly good piece of brisket, so I put it on the counter for her, and she loved it. That’s a slippery slope…[laughs]
Austin Family: A lot of dads will be unwrapping grills and smokers this Father’s Day. Any advice for them?
Aaron: Take your time. Have patience—it’s all about patience. You can’t make something do what it doesn’t naturally want to do. You can guide it, and you can try to influence things—influence your smoker, influence your fire, influence your child. That’s kind of our umbrella theory around here: just guide things. Let things organically happen. Don’t force it, and take your time. Have fun.