On the Road with David Sanders: Episode #1

David Sanders is one of my three favorite cellists, along with Pablo Casals, whom I saw (and heard) in concert with Isaac Stern, and Septimus Harding, after whom I’m trying to model my life — except that barbecue was unknown to him.

Maestro Sanders — is it ok if I call him maestro? Usually a maestro is a conductor or a top pit master like Tootsie Tomanetz or Rodney Scott, but what the heck. Anyway, young Sanders won a cello in a card game when he was 12. Okay, I made that up, but stay with me. He started taking lessons at 14 and, at the ripe old age of 16, made his debut with the Miami Symphony. At 16, I was … never mind. At 24, he was tapped by Sir Georg Solti for a position in the Chicago Symphony, the best symphony in the US – some would say the world. Friends, cotton don’t get much taller than that.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra musician portraits: Cellist David Sanders ©†Todd Rosenberg Photography 2010

He continues a distinguished career with the Chicago Symphony, and you can and really should google “david sanders cello.” But enough of that. On to the important stuff.

If you glance at his Instagram page, davidnsanders, you immediately will gain a pound. David Sanders likes pastries. He also likes cheeseburgers and, let’s get to the point, barbecue. A while back David had some ribs at the late, great Fat Willy’s Rib Shack, a recent victim of COVID restrictions, and it was so good that he realized that the needed to explore the world of barbecue. That prompted a string of Southern roads trips. On his first trip, David stopped at Grady’s and had a Road to Damascus moment, a flash of enlightenment that food could be this good. Barbecue continues to draw him South, year after year.

His tastes range far wider than barbecue. David is a great judge of food, and is one of the people the Chicago Symphony sends in advance of their international concerts to pick out hotels. While picking out hotels, David incidentally happens upon restaurants and the odd pastry shop. And he photographs and discusses what he eats.

David periodically posts his photos and commentary on Dropbox. He graciously sent me links, and I initially planned to post links to all of his reports at once. I decided that would be too much to, uh, digest at one time. Let’s start with two: his post from a 2013 road trip south. He was well armed with intelligence for Dan Levine’s outstanding BBQ Jew website (currently hibernating). David’s talent judging barbecue rivals his skill playing the cello.

The 2013 trip reportstarts with some photos from earlier trips, including places in Richmond (Buz and Ned’s) and Savannah (Wiley’s). He then goes to North Carolina and Grady’s, and to other legends of North Carolina Barbecue.

That report is here.

David’s report of his 2014 tour, starting at Grady’s again, working down to Savannah through South Carolina. That report is here, and begins to illustrate, quite literally, the breadth of David’s food interests and expertise.

Stay tuned for much more from all over the world.


And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.

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