John Lewis

Pitmaster, Lewis Barbecue & Rancho Lewis

A trailblazer in the neo-traditional style of Central Texas barbecue, Pitmaster John Lewis uses his custom-made smokers to produce expertly smoked pork spareribs, beef ribs, “Texas hot guts” sausage, and his legendary beef brisket. 

Born in Brooklyn, NY, John moved to El Paso, TX when he was a kid. At 18, he packed up and moved to Austin to start his culinary career. Around this time, John’s parents gave him a New Braunfels smoker for his birthday, and he started dabbling in Austin’s longstanding tradition of the backyard barbecue. He was soon getting creative with both his smokers and his meats, taking liberties with the design and construction to yield a better result. To this day, John has never purchased a premade barbecue pit or smoker, preferring instead to forge his own by hand. Through many years of trial and error, he’s been able to achieve the results he was after—a signature “John Lewis barbecue” flavor and texture.

In 2010, John was tapped to help his friend Aaron Franklin open Franklin Barbecue. While there, John pioneered the flavor profile that helped put Austin barbecue on the map. He later partnered with LeAnn Mueller to open La Barbecue, quickly thereafter becoming the rising star of Austin’s barbecue scene.

In June 2016, John brought his signature style to Charleston, SC, with Lewis Barbecue, his first restaurant in the city’s emerging Upper Peninsula. Since opening its doors, Lewis Barbecue has become a staple in the local restaurant scene and has been lauded nationally by the likes of Garden & Gun, Southern Living, The New York Times, and Food & Wine for its one-of-a-kind flavor. 

In 2022, John and his team opened their second concept, Rancho Lewis, in downtown Charleston. Rancho Lewis celebrates the food and culture from John’s El Paso roots – “the land before borders” – where West Texas, Chihuahua, Mexico, and New Mexico meet. The menu is inspired by regional ingredients from the Northern Rio Grande Valley, including Hatch red and green chiles, pinto beans, mesquite firewood and beef.

Also in 2022, John and his dedicated “Bar-be-crew” opened their second Lewis Barbecue in Greenville, SC. After transforming the former site of the much-loved Tommy’s Country Ham House, Lewis now serves up their legendary barbecue, honky tonk music and laid-back vibes to an enthusiastic Upstate crowd.