Most kids have sports idols. Chef John Henry's boyhood hero in Nacogdoches was the guy on the corner selling 75 cent barbecue sandwiches. "The neighborhood hero was the guy who had the barbecue stand. In fact, right on Little Creek, the guy was Son Bruton," recalled Henry.
Such is the foundation for a successful nationwide business of 80 different spicy and herbal blends. Henry picks up a favorite. "This one is the Texas Brisket. This is the one that won the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo last year. Out of 359 teams it came in first place."
Judges aren't the only ones who have noticed Henry's knack with marinades and rubs. He markets his items in quality stores and on the web around the nation and Canada. The business is based out of Houston with one retail store and another in the planning. His son, Ernie is following in Henry's footsteps. Clients include the famous. "President George W. Senior when he was in back in 1989. I carried 19 chefs up to Washington D.C. And we barbecued for him."
All of Henry's products carry names of East Texans and places important to him. "We have the Slippery Hill which is down from across Lufkin way," said Henry referring to a popular nightspot. But no name is an important as the one for his mom. "When i grew up in the industry my mom everybody would call her Shag, so when she pulled me into the restaurant business when I was a kid of 9 years old they started calling me Lil Shag, so now my granddaughter has the name of Lil Shag." Henry and his mom would could at the old Shepherd's Restaurant, a popular eatery in the 1960's to 1970's.
Henry calls barbecue instant gratification even though it takes hours of slow cooking requiring relaxing ways to pass the time. When asked how he spent his cooking time he said with a grin, "I used to drink a lot of ice tea, okay, but the doctor told me not to drink as much ice tea as I used to. I'll call it ice tea today, okay," with a hefty laugh.