By Janet Jones
Texans love their barbecue. That mouthwatering taste of juicy, slow-smoked meat leaves even the most discriminating eaters weak at the knees.
And despite the ongoing debate “to sauce or not to sauce,” many pit masters consider a flavorful barbecue sauce just as essential to the meal as the potato salad, corn on the cob and baked beans. In fact, one might argue that what you put ON the meat is more important than what you serve WITH the meat.
For those meat lovers who want to push their barbecue experience to the next level, Waco native Fredrick Khoury has a suggestion: try Central Texas’ own 1934 BBQ Sauce. If the name of that sauce is unfamiliar, Fredrick understands, even though the sauce has been popular with barbecue lovers since its creation in Waco almost 90 years ago.
As founder and president of the company, Fredrick’s mission is to bring 1934 BBQ Sauce to the forefront of the barbecue world by sharing its iconic past and by allowing barbecue aficionados to taste for themselves the difference a premium sauce can make at their next backyard cookout.
In the Beginning
The history of 1934 BBQ Sauce is as rich and tantalizing as the sauce itself.
The story began more than 100 years ago and 7,000 miles away. In the 1900s, many Syrian and Lebanese immigrants sailed to America in search of a better life. Alex Khoury, Fredrick’s grandfather, traveled from the mountain village of Safita in Syria and settled in Waco to be closer to family and friends.
His grandmother Theodora sailed from her native home in Lebanon to Ellis Island in New York before arriving in Texas. Alex and Theodora met through mutual friends, married soon after and started a family with sons Ernest, Fred (Fredrick’s father), Rollin, Theodore and daughter Lillian.
As the Khoury family and other immigrants settled in Central Texas, the close-knit community formed a benevolent society named The Syrian Club of Waco (now the Syrian Lebanese Association). Alex was a founding member.
The group built a clubhouse on 10 acres near Highway 84 and Hewitt Drive, where members gathered for fellowship and to plan ways to serve the community with contributions to charities and scholarships for local students.
In 1934, club members hosted their first fundraising event to raise money for charitable projects — a barbecue meal with all the fixings.
That inaugural barbecue was so successful, it became the association’s much-anticipated annual fundraising event, feeding thousands of Central Texans for the next six decades
Fredrick Khoury grew up working beside his family at the fundraisers. In the early years of the event, Fredrick said club members were not sure how to prepare meals for the crowd of more than a thousand people who attended.
“But they figured it out and got good at it!” he said.
Alex and other club members experimented by barbecuing meat “low and slow,” long before the method became mainstream.
“Little did they know they would be pioneers of one of the most widely used methods of cooking barbecue today,” Fredrick said.
Using this process, meat cooks at low temperatures for several hours. The members built three brick barbecue pits to smoke the meat and bake the potatoes. It was a two-day process. The meat smoked all night, then was served at 6 p.m. the following day.