BBP 008: Neil Strawder of Bigmista’s Barbecue on His Origin Story and Success in BBQ
Fun-loving, bombastic, and one heck of a BBQ pitmaster are descriptors that manage to only scratch the surface of Mr. Neil “Bigmista” Strawder – pitmaster at Bigmista’s Barbecue. Together with his wife Phyllis, he’s built up a West Coast BBQ following and garnered quite a bit of national, and international attention as well.
Neil and Phyllis are a BBQ Power Couple, with each lending their particular skills to the businesses Bigmista’s BBQ is building. Currently, there are two restaurants – The Sammich Shop in East Long Beach, CA and Bigmista’s Morning Wood in Lakewood Village, CA. Word is that a third is in the works.
Here’s a Peep at the Food Bigmista’s Barbecue Puts Out
The Origins of Bigmista’s BBQ on Video!
Check out this clip from Made Man, where Neil and Phyllis share the origins of their BBQ business. “Don’t cut into my shoe money!” Love it.
FUN! And that’s what you get from Neil in this podcast session. Next time, we’re going to do a conference call with both he and Phyllis. Oh man… the wheels are turning now!
Bigmista’s Sammich Shop on Video
Let’s start with the Big Close Out… wow. If they close the shop down like this every day, it’s going to become an event to mark on the calendar!
You can also get a great look into the BBQ operations over at The Sammich Shop by checking out the “Light It Up” episode of Man Fire Food with Roger Mooking on Cookingchannel.com.
What You’ll Hear in this Session with Neil Strawder
In this conversation with Neil Strawder, you’ll learn about his beginnings in BBQ – cooking as part of a competition team called 4Q BBQ. 4Q! No… 4Q!!!! Haha. Great name. Eventually, Neil began to sell BBQ at local area farmer’s markets, where he grew a strong and loyal following. This following and the success it brought led the Strawders to open up their restaurants, where business continues to do very well.
OK… let’s get on with the session notes. Remember, you can click on the time stamps to hear the segment it relates to.
Time Stamped Show Notes
- [2:46] Neil shares a little about the role BBQ plays within his family – from hobby, to obsession, to business, to lifestyle. “That looks good – I think we can smoke it!”
- [4:00] We go back with Neil and trace his BBQ journey starting in Texas as a kid… it’s a fun trip. Nice mention of the role the BBQ Brethren played here, too.
- [7:28] Bloggers unite! Neil joined up with some fellow bloggers back in the day and formed 4Q competition BBQ team. Four cooks – and hey, it’s just fun to hear “Fork You!” No! “Fork You!!!”
- [11:50] Catering gets serious, and doing BBQ as a business gets rolling. The real story of the push in this direction – those competitions were starting to cut into Phyllis’ shoe money! Mista did his Michael Jackson and split away to compete under Bigmista’s Barbecue. Slyvie Currie competes now as Lady of Q – check this story.
- [13:46] Phyllis suggests vending at some local farmer’s markets and the LA Times’ food editor sparks some serious attention among foodies for Bigmista’s Barbecue.
- [15:18] Taking that leap of faith! Neil shares what it was like when he and Phyllis deal balancing his job at Wells Fargo with the increasing demands of the success they were having in BBQ.
- [17:12] Learn what Neil did to cement his decision to never go back to having “job” … hing – it involved FIRE!
- [19:00] Learn a bit about how doing business at farmer’s markets works… interesting info from Neil here.
- [20:41 ] The first restaurant venture gets underway…. then doesn’t. A lesson in what to look for, and who – if anyone – to partner with. Then the Long Beach location opened up at the site of a former Italian bakery.
- [24:15] Spicewine smoker parked on the street, pumping out amazing smoked meat aromas… then the Health Department has its say. Ugh! We ultimately learn the evolution of Bigmista’s gear: From Spicewine, to Pitmaker Vault, to FEC 240
- [27:48] Neil talks about how his extended BBQ Family has helped play a role in his success. “I can go to any state in the US and a lot of different countries and have a BBQ contact.”
- [30:00] Learn a bit about some of the projects Neil has going on, including how he got started with the folks at CABO WABO Tequila.
So there you have it. Neil “Bigmista” Strawder in all of his humor and style. If you’re in the Long Beach, CA area be sure to check out one or both of his family’s restaurants.
If you want to learn more about Bigmista’s Barbecue, you can reach out to them directly via the following channels:
- Find Bigmista’s Sammich Shop on Facebook
- Follow Bigmista’s Barbecue on Twitter
- Connect with Bigmista’s Barbecue on Instagram
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