In the book, the Oakland chef shares his wisdom on barbecue and life.

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Matt Horn Cookbook
Credit: Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Long before Matt Horn decided to become a chef and pitmaster, he was applying for a job at a Barnes & Noble. He remembers waiting for the interview while a book signing was going on, and watching the author schmooze with fans. Horn looks back on that moment and admits that he never thought he'd have a book of his own. But in April 2022, all that will change, because Horn is releasing his first cookbook, Horn Barbecue: Recipes and Techniques from a Master of the Art of BBQ.

Horn, the chef/owner of Horn Barbecue in Oakland, CA and a 2021 Food & Wine Best New Chef, is honest when he talks about what he hopes readers will take away from the cookbook. "I want the book to be a guide for implementing techniques with different cooking methods, whether it be grilling or smoking, but I also want readers to understand that there are going to be setbacks."

By setbacks, Horn means both in cooking and in life. "There are times that I talk about in the book where I wanted to quit barbecue," he said. "But I decided to continue pushing forward."

When Horn first started cooking barbecue, all he could think about was the finished product. But somewhere along the way, he realized that the beauty of barbecue is in the process itself. "Now, of course I care about what the finished product is going to be, but I don't just focus on the end of it. I focus on the journey, and that can be translated to life as well."

The recipes in the book are intended to do three things: tell the story of Horn's upbringing, pay tribute to the inspiration that went into building Horn Barbecue, and teach any cook—experience aside—how to master the barbecue basics (and not-so-basics). "I want to show more versatility than what we're doing at the restaurant," Horn said.

Recipes like beef cheeks and pickled pig feet are Horn's way of offering something a little different than the ribs and brisket in a standard barbecue cookbook. And there are also sweet familial tributes that help tie the whole book together, like a sour cream cake that Horn's grandmother used to eat when she was growing up.

Beyond anything else, Horn hopes his book inspires people to get outside of their comfort zones and learn to cook something new. But he also wants readers to gain an understanding of who he is and what his barbecue style, which he calls West Coast Barbecue, is all about.

"I want people to feel the attention to detail that goes into the work that I put in, the way that the brand has been built, and how we treat our guests, and the way we translate that love through the art and craft of barbecue."