Despite pandemic, pitmaster takes the biggest leap of his career

By Michael Kinney

Michael Kinney Media

Growing up in Lawton, Oklahoma, Marcus McNac always seemed to have a keen interest in all facets of barbeque. From the age of 10 on, he was constantly asking questions. 

 But unlike many of today’s up and coming chefs, he didn’t learn his craft on YouTube or a cooking school. McNac learned how to barbeque the old school way. He went with his dad to a juke joint. 

“We have a place down at Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma, and my uncle had a barbecue place. It was a barbecue place, a juke joint and a gambling hall. We went every weekend as a kid,” McNac said. “Instead of being at the park, I would end up down there with my dad, and to keep me out of grown folk’s business, he would give me this big poker and he’d give me four or five chicken legs to do on the grill. But I had to keep track of all that stuff because that’s what they were going to sell that night.” 

That was not only McNac’s introduction in how to barbeque right, but it was also his first taste of the business.  

Almost four decades later, those weekends at his uncle’s juke joint working next to his father have blossomed into the Crimson Creek Smokehouse in Austin. 

Named after the Red Sticks of his Muscogee Indian heritage, Crimson Creek is McNac’s attempt to bring Oklahoma style barbeque into the heart of Texas.  

McNac’s dream of opening up his own eatery didn’t just happen overnight. After moving to Texas in 1997 and got into the construction business, he was working on his techniques as more of a passion and side gig. He prepared food for his neighbors, catered different events and entered barbecue competitions across the state.  

“I took a team to the Texas rodeo for three years. The majority of the folks are there just to kick it. They’re there to party, and I was there on a mission,” McNac said. “And those three years I placed in top five in ribs three years in a row. And then with some help from another buddy of mine, we got first place in brisket, which was unheard of.” 

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, McNac experienced a severe slowdown in his construction business. He found himself at home working in his garage on different projects.  

That is when his wife, Jamie Dickens, suggested he get back to doing what he loved.  

“She asked me one day, why don’t you get the barbeque thing started again,” McNac said. “I said alright. But I am thinking, ‘how am I going to do this?’” 

Opening up his own eatery was a long-term goal for McNac. He envisioned this taking place a decade from now when he was in his 50s, his daughter would be out of college and life would be more settled.  

But that was not space the 47-year old McNac found himself in when the pandemic hit, so he decided to take advantage of the opportunity and jump headfirst into building up his dream. 

With hundreds of BBQ restaurants and food trucks littered throughout the state, there may be no more competitive market in the country.  

Yet, McNac wasn’t worried. The former soccer player and sprinter has thrived on competition throughout his life. He saw this as another way to compete. 

However, he wasn’t going to do it on their terms. Considering where he was, McNac’s game plan could have been seen as risky.  

“We don’t do beef,” McNac said. “Everybody that I have talked to around here says I will fail if I don’t do beef. Brisket is not my thing. I’m more of a chicken, pork, and sausage guy, of any part of the pig. From the snout to the ribs, I’ll do it. I smoke pigs’ feet, ribs, loin, you name it. I figured out a way to get it tender, and give you a totally different taste than something you’ve never had before.” 

Using his father’s special rub recipe as his foundation, McNac built on it to bring out a bigger and bolder taste he hasn’t experienced anywhere else.  

“Every barbecue place that I’ve been to, everyone that I’ve tried, the first thing I do is get their ribs because I want to try them, and I have yet to be impressed by any of them,” McNac said. “They’re all way too salty, and that’s why I like my rub, which is I my dad’s recipe that was written on an old 3×5 card. I had to add a little bit of stuff to it for some flavor that I would consider now to be a flavor. There’s absolutely no salt in my barbecue rub.” 

With Dickens taking care of the sides and her mother on the desserts, McNac took to social media to start to build up the Crimson Creek brand. He continued to cater and deliver food throughout the Austin area until he felt it was time to go all-in on the company’s first food truck. It’s official grand opening will take place Oct. 10.

McNac knows he has some challenges ahead of him as he looks to grow his barbecue empire. Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic and an economic slowdown are just a few.  

But McNac fully believes what he brings is a taste and style to the central Texas table that is something completely unique and different. And it all started when he was just a child learning from his dad. 

“That sparked my interest in barbecue as a kid, because I would get to tend the barbecue grill when he had the chicken and stuff on,” McNac recalled. “I had to use the little bottle to put out the little flames and whatnot. That was huge for me.” 

This is a paid Advertorial

Michael Kinney is a Content Provider with MichaelKinney.Media.

Instagram: @Eyeamtruth

Twitter: @Eyeamtruth

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