Q39 founder Rob Magee dies, leaving ‘indelible footprint’ on KC barbecue

Rob Magee, Q39 founder and a Prairie Village resident, died on Dec. 4 after a five-and-a-half year battle with colon cancer, according to a Q39 announcement. Above, Magee in front of Q39. Photo via Q39 Facebook.

Rob Magee, a barbecue circuit champion who used his years of experience behind the smoker to found the acclaimed restaurant Q39, died Dec. 4.

Magee, a Prairie Village resident, had battled colon cancer for the past five-and-a-half years, according to an announcement on Q39’s Facebook page. Q39 intends to continue Magee’s “commitment to BBQ” by sharing “his culinary passion,” according to the announcement.

Rob Magee, a Prairie Village resident, opened Q39 in 2014. His passion for barbecue began in 2001 after moving to Kansas City. Photo via Q39 Facebook.

“A friend and mentor to many, he truly appreciated the thousands of people that enjoyed his BBQ from around the world,” the Facebook announcement reads. “Rob was a true champion and no one could have packed more life into these last five years. May we all live by his life-affirming example.”

A 1986 culinary institute graduate, Magee spent his early career hopping from city to city working in hotel restaurants, and would pick up a local pastime wherever he went. In Texas, he got into professional level water skiing. In Denver, it was motocross. And when he arrived in Kansas City in 2001 to work at the Westin Crown Center, it became barbecue.

Between 2006 and 2013, his team, the Munchin’ Hogs, were the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s top team in the nation twice, and earned the distinction of being Reserve Grand Champions once.

Magee, a Staten Island and New Jersey native, opened Q39 at 1000 W. 39th Street in 2014.

Six months later, Q39 made The Pitch’s “Best of KC” list as best new barbecue restaurant. A little more than a year after Q39’s local recognition, the barbecue restaurant made FlipKey’s 2015 list of 50 restaurants worth traveling for.

With the success of the original midtown location, Magee opened a second Q39 near Corporate Woods in Overland Park in 2017.

Ardie Davis, a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and a Roeland Park resident, said in already-crowded Kansas City barbecue landscape, Magee still found a way to distinguish himself.

“He proved his competence at the pit by competing and winning in contests, followed by engaging in the highly competitive Kansas City barbecue restaurant scene with remarkable success,” Davis said in an email Sunday night.

“Fortunately Rob had the wisdom and savvy to pass his skill set along to others who will fulfill his high standards, thus continuing his legacy. Rob’s innovations, passion, scrupulous attention to details and commitment to excellence have left an indelible footprint in Kansas City and beyond.”

KCBS announced Magee’s death on Facebook as well and said he set high standards both in competitions and barbecue as a cuisine. KCBS said Magee was instrumental in the KC Extreme Makeover Project, and that Q39 is “a staple in the barbecue community.”

“Rob will be missed by so many and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” the announcement reads.