It would only make sense that RS&H Transportation Planning Group Leader Rick Mobley is passionate about both engineering and barbecue. Both fields require precision, intensive study and, ultimately, the chase for perfection.
Perfection is where the two practices differ. Engineering projects can hit that mark, proven through mathematical equations that can be confirmed again and again.
Barbecue is a different story.
“You are never perfect,” Mobley said. “It’s always a little different.”
That being said, Mobley and his barbecue teams have been considered the most perfect in several competitions over the years.
Mobley’s biggest stage is the Houston Livestock and Rodeo World Championship BBQ Contest, which this year anticipates to raise more than $26 million to award 750 scholarships to Texas students, many of whom will be the first in their family to attend college.
The World Championship BBQ Contest serves as the opening act for the rodeo, which runs for most of March. Not only did this year’s three-day BBQ event draw an attendance north of 225,000, but there were also hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement officers, and workers that needed to eat, too.
Enter Mobley, a custom-built smoker appropriately named the Meat Wagon, and hundreds of pounds of almost every BBQ meat imaginable. His team was one of 660 onsite, motley crews that filled up the entire main parking lot for the Houston Texans’ NFL stadium.
Now a Headquarters Committee member, Mobley and his team smoke around the clock to make three meals a day. The long days and nights are a lot of work, he said, but they’re also a lot of fun.
“Serving 1,800 to 2,000 volunteers at every meal, it’s fun to watch everyone come in and see how grateful they are – whether it’s for dinner or lunch or those early morning breakfasts,” Mobley said. “And it’s great because it benefits so many kids.”
Mobley is quick to offer his smoker and expertise for a good cause. In February, Mobley and his team competed in the Humble BBQ Cook-Off, which raises funds for the local school district to support innovative projects, educators’ classroom needs, campus priorities, action research and district infrastructural priorities. He also cooks regularly for benefits sponsored by his neighborhood’s homeowners association.
Mobley’s craft has been tweaked with years of practice. He learned on his father’s Weber kettle grill and now operates the Meat Wagon, which can smoke 500 pounds worth of pork, chicken, ribs, brisket, and sausage at one time.
Mobley will occasionally mingle meats together – his sausage-stuffed pork loins are the kind of legends pit masters hang their hats on. Then again, his baby back ribs rubbed in his own blend of spices, basted with his own sauce and smoked for three hours, are special enough to stand on their own.
“You’ve got to know you’re meat, and you’ve got to know how to cook,” Mobley said.
His knowledge of and passion for barbecue shines through every plate. As spring blooms across Texas, Mobley will have more opportunities to chase barbecue perfection.
Taste one of his ribs, and you may believe he’s already achieved it.