The Beast: American Barbecue in Paris
Whenever someone asks me about the best part about living in France, I always reply that my favorite part is the food. In the year and a half that I’ve lived here, I’ve discovered fantastic new dishes that have easily become some of my favorites: confit de canard, cassoulet, aligot… The list goes on and on. And don’t even let me get started on dessert.
But despite all the great French foods that I’ve tried (and yet to try), sometimes I crave American food. There’s nothing more comforting than eating foods that you’ve grown up with. That’s why I was really excited when Steven introduced me to Thomas Abramowicz, owner of The Beast—a Texan barbecue joint in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris.
Thomas was first introduced to American barbecue by a Texan roommate after he moved to New York for work in 2007. He had a different definition of what it meant to grill (direct grilling) after growing up in France, and American barbecue was new and exciting. At the time, Texas barbecue had no presence in France.
Thomas eventually grew unhappy with his desk job in marketing, and 8 years after he first discovered Texas barbecue, he decided to open up an authentic barbecue joint in Paris. He was determined to do it right, so he trained at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Texas before opening up his own restaurant.
One of the biggest challenges about bringing Texas barbecue to Paris is sourcing the meat. Despite having great quality meat in France, they are more suitable for grilling—not smoking. French meats lacked the level of marbling that Thomas was looking for. In addition, the cuts of meat found in France are different than what is used for American barbecue. As a solution, he imports his brisket all the way from Creekstone Farms in Kansas.
The barbecue at The Beast is hardcore traditional central Texan barbecue. Like Wayne Mueller of Louis Mueller Barbecue, Thomas takes a minimalist approach: he seasons only with salt and pepper. But to adapt to the French market, he reduces the amount of pepper used in his rub. The preparation of the barbecue is the same as he had been taught at Mueller’s.
The Beast offers six kinds of meat on its menu: brisket, beef ribs, beef sausage, pulled pork, baby back ribs, and barbecue chicken legs. Plus, they also have seasonal offerings like wagyu brisket. The brisket, smoked for 20 hours, is by far the most popular item on the menu. Thomas thinks it’s mostly because brisket is not a cut of meat commonly used in French cooking. The meat is all smoked in-house in a smoker that Thomas had brought all the way from Mesquite, Texas.
The fixings found at The Beast are also all traditional American sides, like coleslaw, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. They are made in-house daily, with slight modifications to appeal to the French market. For example, the coleslaw is less creamy and sweet than what you would normally find in America.
While Thomas continues to run the restaurant, he has passed on the torch in the kitchen. For the last two years, Alex Morin has taken over the kitchen, continuing to produce the same great barbecue.
Over a lunch spread of beef ribs, pulled pork, sausage and all the sides, I chatted with Thomas about what he’s learned from his years of barbecue experience.
What are 3 ingredients you can’t live without?
I’m not including salt and pepper because it’s too easy and too obvious. Paprika. We don’t use it on the beef, but we use it on everything else. It’s the base for our rub, and we use it on our pork and our chicken. … Personally, I would use a herb because I think it enhances a product. Either thyme or rosemary are my go-to herbs when it comes to barbecuing or marinading [at home].
What is the biggest mistake that home barbecuers make?
Being impatient. If you want to make good barbecue, you need time. The biggest mistake I’ve seen in France in grilling is that people don’t want to wait for the coals to be perfectly ready. And it can affect the taste of the meat and the grease can burn too fast. Patience is key for good barbecue.
What’s something unexpected that you learned that has helped you with your barbecue game?
Texas hospitality. I was a nobody when I started. When I went to Texas to learn the craft of barbecue, people didn’t need to help me, but they welcomed me with open arms. Barbecue is family. I’ve found that very moving—the way people can welcome you with open arms, even if they don’t know you. I was amazed by the people that I’ve met there.
Any parting words or advice for our readers?
Source the right products. I eat less meat, but when I do eat meat, it’s quality. It’s better for the planet and for your health. I know some people can’t afford a high-end steak, but what I tell them is instead of eating meat four times a week or every day, eat it once a week and buy the good stuff. Go to your butcher. Ask questions how your meat was raised.
27 Rue Meslay
75003 Paris France