The American Royal Association has announced the 2020 class of inductees to the Barbecue Hall of Fame: Aaron Franklin, Desiree Robinson and Joe Don Davidson. Additionally, two legacy inductees have been selected: James Lemons and Warner Stamey. The induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, September 19 during the 2020 American Royal World Series of Barbecue at the Kansas Speedway.

Each year, three individuals are awarded the prestigious honor and are recognized by the Barbecue Hall of Fame for their significant contributions to the barbecue community and demonstration of achievement in barbecue excellence. And new for 2020, two legacy inductees will also be acknowledged.

The Barbecue Hall of Fame Legacy Category honors deceased individuals whose contributions to barbecue excellence helped establish the rich barbecue tradition we enjoy today. Barbecue is a centuries-old culinary art and this category will recognize individuals whose formative influence came before the modern era of competitions and food media.

This year, the Barbecue Hall of Fame will welcome the following three inductees:

Aaron Franklin - Restaurateur, Celebrity, Educator, Media, Chef, Author, Pitmaster: Austin Texas-based barbecue cook, grilling guy, restaurant owner, educator and writer. Aaron is a self-taught bbq expert, who has quickly risen to be one of the most well-known pit bosses in the barbecue world. He never cuts corners on choosing quality meats and spending the time it really takes to make the best bbq in the country. In 2015, Aaron won the coveted James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest. Aaron’s second book, Franklin Steak, showcases his deep love for steak by exploring dry aging, reverse searing, and other cooking methods.

Desiree Robinson – Restaurateur, Pitmaster: Mrs. Robinson and her late husband, Raymond Robinson, started Cozy Corner Restaurant in August 1977. He was to work the business and she worked at, what was then South Central Bell, to keep life afloat. She retired from AT&T in 1991. She stayed in retirement until his passing in February 2001. At that time, she came in to run the business along with their children, Val and Ray, Jr. After Ray, Jr’s passing, she and Val kept the business going, until the grands got old enough to come in. Desiree has been involved in all aspects of the business, but enjoyed cooking and talking with customers the most. She is now once again enjoying semiretirement, only going in when she wants to. She knows the business is in the good hands of her two grandsons, Bobby and Sean, and Val, with her two granddaughters functioning in support roles.

Joe Don Davidson – Business/Industry, Restaurateur, Humanitarian, Pitmaster, Celebrity: Joe Davidson, multi-decorated Outdoor Cooking World Champion, has won over 300 state, regional, national and international barbecue cooking titles. And because of his pure love for BBQ and everything it stands for, Joe will eagerly share his outdoor cooking expertise with anyone that is willing to listen to him! Currently Oklahoma Joe’s continues to give over $150,000 a year back to his community including but not limited to high school organizations, United Way, student fundraising, ball teams, churches and more.

Legacy Inductees:

James Lemons – Restaurateur, Chef, Pitmaster: James Lemons was the last of three brothers-Myles, Bruce and James-who founded the legendary Lem’s Bar-B-Q on Chicago’s south side, which runs to this day as one of the most popular and successful black food businesses in Chicago. James Lemons helped create a regional style of BBQ in Chicago built on ribs, rib tips and hotlinks as the central food and the “aquarium smoker” glass pit as a unique tool. Coming from Indianola MS in the 1940s, he joined his brothers in starting a chain of barbecue stands, the original of which is still on 75th street and busy every day.

In 1954, two brothers, Bruce and Myles Lemons had a dream. A dream for their future, a dream of hope, a dream of destiny... It was a dream of entrepreneurship. With this dream, they opened their first store on the south side of Chicago. Myles, a formal chef created Lem’s original Bar-B-Q sauce and its magical spices. Once people had a taste of the secret sauce, they kept coming back for that unique flavor. And as a result, Lem’s Bar-B-Q House was a success!

After fourteen successful years, the company decided to open another location. Myles and Bruce idea of having a second location included their brother James, also a formal chef. In 1968, the second Lem’s Bar-B-Q House opened in the historic Chatham Neighborhood.

Warner Stamey – Restaurateur, Pitmaster: Born in 1911 the youngest of 11 children, Warner Stamey moved to Lexington, NC to live with his older sister while he attended high school. While he was there, he hooked up with the ingenious barbecue men Jess Swicegood and Sid Weaver. They were selling pork out of tents across from the courthouse and taught Stamey everything there was to know about pit cooking barbecue. A high school diploma and $350 dollars later, Mr. Stamey moved back to Shelby, NC where he sold his own barbecue to growing crowds. Eventually, in 1938, he sold his operation and came back to Lexington, NC. From that first restaurant grew several culinary ventures and barbecue innovations. Warner’s barbecue pit designs and restaurant methods are still used by the best pitmasters and restaurateurs today. Warner was also first to pair Hushpuppies with his pit cooked pork (a staple of every piedmont NC barbecue eatery). Warner Stamey is considered by many as the Godfather of Lexington- style NC barbecue. In 1953 he opened his sixth restaurant in Greensboro, NC where the fourth generation of Stamey family continues his legacy and craft.

The American Royal World Series of Barbecue will return to the Kansas Speedway, September 18 – 20. The event brings together world-renowned pitmasters and barbecue enthusiasts from across the country and around the world to compete for the title of Grand Champion in both the Open and Invitational contests. For more information about this year’s event, visit

Source: American Royal