How Jess Pryles Carved Out a Job for Herself as a Hardcore Carnivore
Jess Pryles, the Australian-born author of the cookbook Hardcore Carnivore, was running a social media consulting business when she bit into her first smoked beef rib during a visit to Austin.
"To have a bite of the smoky, barky, rendered fat nubbins on the end of the beef rib was like, 'Holy moly, this is good!'" remembers Pryles. "Red meat is my favorite, so I don't think it's an accident that Texas barbecue is my favorite too."
She already had a blog called Bloody Mary, which chronicled her search for the world's best burgers and Bloody Marys, but she decided to evolve it into a website focused on her own recipes instead.
"Then I wanted to put my money where my mouth was even more, so I started pushing myself to learn the hardest methods," says Pryles. "Straight into a charcoal barbecue, foregoing gas. Straight into an offset pit, which is the hardest one to run— but you learn more that way."
As Pryles began translating Texas barbecue for an Australian audience, she found herself delving further into the world of meat out of both curiosity and necessity.
"How could I advise people in Australia on what brisket should be if I don't understand it?" she says. "How is the butchering different and what is that cut and what do you mean there's different muscles, different breeds, different sizes, different feed? So I fell down this rabbit hole, exploring meat in general."
Pryles began touring processing plants and visiting butchers and ranchers in both Australia and Texas, taking notes and asking questions from the point of view of an average consumer. She went on to co-found the Australasian Barbecue Alliance, a resource for American-style barbecue in Australia, and began speaking at events like Camp Brisket, South by Southwest and the American Meat Science Association and North American Meat Industry conferences.
"At the industry stuff, I speak about how to connect to the public," says Pryles. "And at the public stuff, I teach them what I've learned from the industry, like beef grading and dispelling myths and helping people understand basic meat selection in addition to cookery."
Before moving to Texas in 2015, Pryles returned for multiple visits, learning how to hunt and process whitetail deer, hog and turkey with Marvin Bendele, the director of Foodways Texas, and enrolling in classes to study with meat scientists at Texas A&M University.
"I've never referred to myself as a pitmaster because…I think you need to have the insane schedule (at a barbecue restaurant) to use that terminology," says Pryles. "And I never claim to have done meat science, because that's a university degree people study their ass off to do. But have I spent the better part of the last five years intensively learning about all aspects of the meat world? Fuck yeah I have!"
When she's not speaking or teaching on the subject of meat, Pryles can be found emceeing events, judging barbecue competition, acting as a brand ambassador for companies like Gerber Knives and promoting her cookbook and a line of Hardcore Carnivore meat rubs. She also regularly posts articles, recipes and photos to her website, which continues to be a trusted resource for all things carnivorous, from hunting to butchering to aging to smoking.
"I love the challenge of being able to succeed and, most importantly, earn respect — and have people say 'You should try her recipe' or 'You need to follow her because she knows what she's talking about' — in a world that's usually male dominated," says Pryles. "Know your shit, be good at what you do, and it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman."