LeAnn Mueller, the co-owner of la Barbecue and a member of the famous Mueller barbecue family, passed away suddenly on June 14, 2023. She was 51 years old. Her death shocked and saddened the barbecue community and her fans, who remembered her as a talented pitmaster, a successful restaurateur, and a renowned photographer.
A Barbecue Dynasty
LeAnn Mueller was born into a family of barbecue masters. Her grandfather, Louie Mueller, started the legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, in 1949. Her father, Bobby Mueller, took over the restaurant in 1974 and won a James Beard Award for it in 2006. Her brother, John Mueller, also ran several barbecue joints in Austin and Frisco until his death in December 2021.
LeAnn followed her family’s footsteps and opened her own barbecue business in 2012. She started with a food truck called JMueller BBQ with her brother John, but they parted ways after a dispute. She rebranded the truck as la Barbecue with her then-girlfriend and later wife, Ali Clem. The truck quickly gained popularity and acclaim for its smoked meats, especially the brisket and sausage.
In 2017, la Barbecue moved into a counter-space within East Austin market Quickie Pickie. In 2021, it opened its first standalone restaurant on East Cesar Chavez Street. LeAnn and Ali split their time between Austin and Los Angeles, where they had plans to open another la Barbecue location.
A Celebrated Photographer
Besides barbecue, LeAnn was also passionate about photography. She started her career as a photojournalist for the Austin American-Statesman in the late nineties. She then moved to Los Angeles and became an entertainment photographer, working for publications like Rolling Stone, Texas Monthly, Paste, and Austin Monthly.
She captured portraits of celebrities like Jay Z, Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges, Courtney Barnett, and St. Vincent. She also documented the music scene in Austin and Los Angeles, covering festivals like South by Southwest and Coachella. She had a distinctive style that blended realism and artistry.
A Sudden Loss
LeAnn Mueller died peacefully on June 14, 2023, surrounded by friends and family. The cause of her death has not been disclosed yet. She was traveling as recently as two weeks ago with trans artist Xavier Schipani, whose art adorns the walls of la Barbecue.
Her death left a void in the barbecue world and the photography industry. Many people expressed their condolences and tributes on social media, praising her achievements and personality. She was described as a generous, kind, funny, and creative person who loved her dogs Mr. Pickles and Bobby Dingle.
She is survived by her wife Ali Clem, her nephew Johnson Mueller, and her extended family and friends. Funeral arrangements are pending.
LeAnn Mueller cause of death is a tragic loss for everyone who knew her or admired her work. She will be remembered as a barbecue legend and a photographer extraordinaire who left a lasting mark on Texas culture.