The Rewards of Dropping Out: Inside Revenge BBQ
At Revenge BBQ in Irvington, Jacob Styburski and his wife, Catherine Sun, are elbow deep in dead animals. They spend long days (and nights) rubbing spices into meat, loading the rotating smoker, and then testing the results for fat render, texture, and flavor. Revenge is different from other barbecue emporia. Not only do the couple use carefully sourced meats—unusual for barbecue restaurants—but Revenge offers no beer, no sports television and no loaded Tater Tots. Revenge is a shrine to Texas barbecue craftsmanship.
He’s too young to have had a past life, but he did. Styburski was part of the Frog Design team that developed the Disney Magic Band, a bracelet that permits wearers to keylessly enter Disney hotel rooms and bypass lines for rides and restaurants. More recently, Styburski was senior director of global consumer design for PayPal, crafting the online experience of users on multiple continents. He spent a lot of time on whiteboards figuring out digital ways to touch customers. He likens that experience to “trying to hug something that’s not there.”
As a barbecue hobbyist, Styburski—who quotes Buddha, Steve Jobs and David Foster Wallace interchangeably—attended “Camp Brisket” (an immersive barbecue course) at Texas A&M. He then apprenticed with Russell Roegels of Roegels Barbecue Co. in Houston, Texas, before trading in an excellent paycheck for the vicissitudes of restaurant ownership. The change was, as Styburski observes, “equal parts exhilarating and just completely horrifying. All the stock grants go out the window once you walk away. But, at the end of the day, the question is: How much enrichment are you getting on a day-to-day basis? How connected are you? And what’s of value to your life?”