Meet the 85-Year-Old Pitmaster Making Legendary Barbecue with Her Traditional 'Mop Sauce'
Tootsie Tomanetz is a legend when it comes to her famous Hill Country barbecue.
In the upcoming season of Netflix's Emmy-nominated series, Chef's Table, food-lovers delve into the "smoky, juicy world of barbecue."
PEOPLE got an exclusive look at the new season's first episode, which follows Tomanetz, an 85-year-old grandmother who is a custodian by day and pitmaster by night.
Tomanetz makes her barbecue at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Texas, where she has developed a tedious and careful cooking method over the course of fifty years.
"Miss Tootsie’s cooking technique, this is kind of country cooking — pork, steak, chicken by the half, two kinds of sausage, turkey breast — it’s all over direct coals," one person explains in PEOPLE's first look. "There’s not a lot of room for error when you do that."
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"Tootsie is literally touching the meat with a fork, handling each piece of it to check it’s done," another adds.
Tomanetz also uses a traditional Texas "mop sauce" — a thin sauce used to baste the meat with barbecue tool that looks essentially like a mini kitchen mop: "There’s no better cut of meat that has been mopped with her mop."
"Tootsie’s Hill Country barbecue, it’s not something you’re going to find hardly anywhere else, because there aren’t a whole lot of pit-masters looking to burn wood down to coals to shovel it into pits," says the voiceover. "Nobody bothers with that sort of hardworking and effort except for Tootsie and what they do at Snow’s."
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Snow's shifted to offer their food available through delivery only. Though Tomanetz has still gone in to cook, the experience is not the same, she said. "Being able to go in once a week to do barbecue, it really gives me the oomph to get up and go. It really gives me encouragement," she told Texas Monthly in April. But, she adds, "I miss the people, I do have to say, not seeing them in line and coming to talk to us."
Tomanetz, who often gets stopped to take photos with fans, feels similarly about the students she would normally encounter at her second job as a maintenance worker at the Giddings High School.
"I’ve missed them in church and at school," she told the outlet. "I’ve wondered how they’ve been doing with their subjects."
Other episodes of Chef's Table will explore BBQ in Australia with Sydney chef Lennox Hastie and in Mexico with chef Rosalia Chay Chuc. James Beard-award winning chef Rodney Scott will also be featured as he shares the tradition of whole-hog cookery in South Carolina.
Chef’s Table: BBQ premieres globally on Sept. 2.
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