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Diane Fourton

If your definition of a “hot mess” involves chipotle cream cheese, green onions and an ample serving of brisket (South Texas barbacoa, to be exact), then you and Diane Fourton of Dallas are on the same page. The co-owner of Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum knows her barbecue, her award-winning joint having ballooned from a small catering biz with a stand at the Dallas Farmers Market to a full brick-and-mortar restaurant in just five short years. Diane runs Pecan Lodge with her husband Justin, and their establishment continues to reel in patrons hungry for their famous smoked meats and Southern comfort-food fare.
 
Named after Justin’s grandfather’s ranch home in Abilene, Pecan Lodge has a success story with more depth than the flavor-rich offerings on its menu. Diane, a former Accenture business consultant (Justin also worked for Accenture prior to Pecan Lodge), took the financial road less travelled after the 2008 market crash with something that she and her husband both had a penchant for: cooking. As it turns out, the gamble paid off.
 
The occasional customer burgeoned into a roster of regular patrons, resulting in a growing cult following and the ensuing media buzz that comes with. When Pecan Lodge was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network, the appearance put them on America’s radar (and they still have the lines to prove it).  
 
While Diane says she’d be open to the possibility of living life on a farm or ranch (and mastering falconry, no less), to every barbecue fan’s relief, Pecan Lodge is here to stay. When asked how she pulls off running a highly lauded restaurant and a tight ship at home, she quips, “Wine helps.”
 
Along for the ride of their pit-smoking lives are Diane’s three children: Austin, 23, and Baylee, 20 (from a previous marriage), as well as the couple’s 6-year-old son Henry. Affectionately nicknamed the “Boss Lady,” 48-year-old Diane takes life by the horns by keeping things simple and authentic — much like the oh-so-tasty sauces she creates.
 
How is running a full-blown restaurant different from your former Dallas Farmers Market venue? At the [Dallas Farmers Market], we had eight employees, one barbecue pit and managed between 1,500–2,000 covers [that’s restaurant speak for diners] per week. In Deep Ellum, we have 30 employees, three barbecue pits, a bar, live music and dinner service on the weekends; we now manage 5,000–7,000 covers per week. 
 
Has being a mom changed your perspective on things? Have your kids changed how you work? This business, this industry in particular, makes it extremely challenging to balance work life and family. But I do my best. We could certainly capture more revenue by being open seven days a week and serving dinner every night, but I want to have dinner with my family. The time we have together is so precious. I believe it’s important to protect that. And I want our employees to have time with their families, as well. 
 
Do your children like to cook? What are favorite foods that you like to prepare for them? My kids love to cook — especially Henry, my youngest. He’s literally been in the kitchen with us since he was an infant. As for their favorite foods I cook, Austin is very fond of my spaghetti and meatballs, Baylee loves my warm spinach salad with goat cheese and crumbled bacon, and Henry is all about my fried eggs. Go figure. 
 
What’s your favorite item on the menu? It’s impossible to choose only one. My three favorites are: Fried Chicken, Banana Pudding (both my grandmother’s recipes) and the Hot Mess. 
 
Describe your typical weekday. After getting Henry off to school, a typical workday involves an assortment of tasks, including juggling, herding cats, telling people what to do (and occasionally where to go), putting out fires (both figurative and literal), dodging bullets, shaking hands, fixing boo boos (both literal and figurative), addressing emails, voicemails, phone calls and texts — which often feels like drinking from a fire hydrant — and attending a variety of meetings, some of which end up being productive. Then I go home. We figure out dinner (usually something super glamorous like Taco Cabana); then we complain about how we should be better parents and cook dinner at home more often. 
 
How about the weekend? What is a weekend?
 
What’s your highest parenting moment? When my young son described, with great detail and fascination, the qualities that made his new friend at school so special without a single reference to ethnicity or the color of his skin. That’s a significant leap forward from my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. 

Lowest parenting moment? When my son Henry once told our waiter that his steak was overcooked and underseasoned. 
 
As a working mom, what’s the most challenging thing about doing both? For me, the most challenging thing is overcoming the misconception that you can give 100 percent to both. You cannot. But you can do your best. And one day, when you look back on your life — even if you’ve made mistakes — if you did your best, truly did your best, you'll have no regrets. That’s a life well lived. That’s a legacy you can be proud of.