Owner Stephen Joseph joined Riverport Bar-B-Cue in 1991, doing small jobs like chopping cabbage, peeling potatoes and other prep-work. Now, nearly 30 years later, he has led the Jefferson landmark to become known for serving the state’s premiere barbecue.

“(The owners) felt comfortable with me and what I was doing for them. They realized they could trust me and began giving me more and more duties. Every week, every month, every chance they got they would give me something else. I would just try to learn it as fast as I could. Luckily, it was something I liked to do, and I learned how to do it pretty quickly.

“I’m more of a visual learner,” Joseph said. “I watched the process from the people I worked for. I shadowed them quite a bit. I watched what they would do to see how they would handle the meat, seasoning and the fire pit. I just kind of watched and learned.”

Overtime, Joseph came to understand he was being groomed to take over and in 1993, the young chef found himself holding the reins.

Joseph said over the years, his secret has been to never stop learning.

“If I got a magazine and it had something barbecue related in it, I pour over it. Still to this day I watch a lot of YouTube videos. You wouldn’t believe the amount of YouTube barbecue videos I watch.”

In his research, Joseph said he found ways of making Riverport Bar-B-Cue his own — buying quality meat, slicing his brisket thin to soak up the flavor of his spices.

“(The original owners) didn’t season a whole lot. They seasoned their ribs, but their brisket went on just like it came out of the package. There’s nothing wrong with that — it was just their process,” Joseph said, adding in his decision to season his brisket “I played with a lot of different combinations. I finally came upon a simple one with five ingredients.”

Joseph’s experimentations paid off, with Riverport Bar-B-Cue being honored in USA Today’s 10 Best user poll and in Texas Monthly’s top 50.

Riverport Bar-B-Cue is open 11 a.m. through 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. through 3 p.m, on Sunday. Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Cue is closed Mondays.