Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BBQ Is Not My Life

I'm having a bbq widow moment. My husband is in the bathroom listening to the BBQ Central Show. I know you're thinking TMI. It would be if he were using the facilities as intended. It's more like office time for him. He claims it's the only time he has any peace. But that's only if Morgan is occupied. She's not at the modesty stage yet.

They are talking about the new BBQ Pitmaster show that's coming to TLC. You would think after being in business (on paper) for over a year now I would have developed more of an interest in BBQ. Sadly, I still don't care. I do care about supporting my husband and eating good que but beyond that "miss me."

What makes most of this bearable is the satisfaction my husband gets for putting out a good product and hearing others rave about his food.

He received an email from a guy that came to the Torrance Farmer's Market today that made my chest swell with pride. Please allow me to share:


We met today at the Torrance Farmer's market. I was the guy that said he'd been looking for a good pork sandwich since Russ Wright's Pit BBQ in Orlando Fl went out of business in 1974 and you said "It's hard to compete with a memory." Well, you did and ... if you're not AS good .... you're AS CLOSE as it's been in 35 years of searching across 22 states. And when I say 22 states, I mean it -- let me tell you, when you're in Mississippi and you tell some guy that his pork isn't as good as you've had in Florida, you have to be serious about finding good food. Congratulations.

Russ and I became friends enough for him to tell me that he smoked his port over oak and hickory, to show me that you can't cut pork into slices unless it's raw, cold or very badly cooked ... and that his sauce was the key and he claimed that what made the difference was that he used actual hog lard as the base. Sadly, not friends enough to get the recipe which dies with him in 1974.

Anyway, you're at the top of my list for good BBQ and I'm not at all about chasing farmer's markets throughout the southland to be able to bring home a meal!


It is stuff like this that allows me to let him live his dream. That coupled with the fact that we beat out the big boys for Best BBQ in L.A. on MyFoxLA. Granted it would be much easier if he went back to a 9-5 but hell who wants easy.

My mom asked about our finances and I told her the truth. No I'm not sharing the details with ya'll (Paula Deen moment). She told my aunt I walk around like nothing's wrong. To me it isn't. Why worry about something I wouldn't change. Not that I want to, but if we have to tear our lives down to build it back up, so be it. As long as I'm the wife with benefits, I got this

I know, I know. The line between bbq widow and loving/supportive wife shifts, grays, fades, whatever. I need a drink.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Don’t Want Your Business

Before I get into anything else let me tell you about the woman from two Sunday's ago that came back last Sunday. We were being our usual goofy selves and chugging along. This new customer came along with one of our previous customers. Just looking at her you could tell that she was one of those black people that are easily embarrassed by other black people she considers not on her level. And I may be generalizing here but why are they always the ones that look like they have nothing fabulous going on any way. She had on a cheap dress, bad weave and fake arrogance.

After going back and forth about what she wanted she decided on a ½ pound of brisket, and then once it was prepared she added another ½ pound to her order. After all this she goes on Yelp and gives our food good review but then refers to us as Sanford and Son meets Hee Haw. While this may be amusing (Nae), if you don't like my service don't come back. She goes on to say that the only reason she was laughing was because it was a nervous laughter. Then take your nervous ass on. Even though we do this to make a living, I come to this particular market because I enjoy the people. And why any idiot would be under the impression that bbq is a fast food. It takes time to slice your brisket and give your raggedy ass the pound you asked for. Not to mention the people who order before you that may have had a large order.

And as if that didn't work my nerves enough here comes another one on her gravy train agreeing with her. He asked for chicken we explained they have a chicken person across the way so we don't do chicken as a courtesy. Then he asked for beef ribs. We don't do beef ribs AT ALL. Neil doesn't think they have enough meat. This is a four hour market. We are not going to serve everything you would possibly see in a sit down restaurant. Again take your raggedy ass on. And then he writes the review as if he came on a different day when in fact he came on the day he wrote the review.

Don't get me wrong I'm all for corrective criticism. But sometimes those who write reviews are under the false impression that because you're allowed free speech that makes you one of the foremost food critics. We all have varying opinions of what's good and what's not. Most of our Atwater customers like us for the simple fact we are fun and funny. Life in and of itself can be a serious thing. Find some joy in something other than your own self-importance.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pleasure Palate Day

I know it's been a long while since I've posted anything but I started to wonder who really wants to hear the ramblings of an over worked wife, mother, child and whatever other titles I choose to have that day. Then I realized I didn't start this blog for others to read it is more for me to vent or have records of how I've got to where I am. So here I sit debating if I'm going to back fill stuff that's happened since my last post in May. HELL NO!!! I ramble enough that it will come out some day.

Anywho, today was hectic as all get out. Neil is off in Arizona sleeping while Glenn cooks up a storm and I get it where I can fit in. We agreed to a date to host Pleasure Palate well before this Fresh and Easy thing came up. I guess I will have to talk about that but not today. There was a breakdown in communication for today but stuff worked itself out. We were supposed to serve the group starting at 11:00. A few of them showed up early and were milling about.

Now we all knew that it was only a little after 10:00 and you have plenty of time but you get nervous anyway. Glenn and I are still setting up the booth and I keep telling him to get stuff ready for the group while I light sternos, put up tents, unload the van. Ya'll know I was not happy about doing manual labor. Did I mention Morgan was there?

I had left her in the car so she could tear it up in peace while we worked stuff out. My cousin gets there for the dessert booth and takes her out. Mini Mista has a thing about running into the net sides while you're trying to put them up and sitting down. To her this is hilarious, personally I just wanna deck her (no I don't beat my child). This was one of her clingy days where she didn't want to be bothered with anyone but me (oh Father). When she erased the white board I told my cousin she had the honor of re-writing the menu.

Of course the market turns out to have a busy day since we already had something going on. The market manager was very accommodating by setting up extra tables and chairs. 26 men and woman all total. The only real incidents were the beans fell through the wire chafing dish and we didn't cut up the chicken breast so they went quickly. They ate everything (3 ½ racks of ribs, 5.5lbs of brisket, 4.5lbs tri-tip, 5lbs of chicken, 5 fatties, 10 hot links, ½ pan beans, potato salad, greens and pineapple coleslaw – two sweet potato pies, half pan peach cobbler and 25 mini red velvet cupcakes) except all the beans. One of the guys said because they're spicy and he's white. One lady came back looking for more cupcakes. I asked her did she get any and she said yes so I told her she could buy some from our dessert booth.

Oh I didn't mention we came up with a name for the dessert division of Bigmista's; Sugar Pye's. My mom's maiden name is Pye and since she's one of the bakers we all agreed on it.

I'm tired and need a shower but I'll be back to write about the raggedy heffa, which is not the same as a jealous heffa, and her yelp review. She said we were Sanford and Son meets Hee Haw. She should know with the straw wig she was wearing. Yes I'm pissed about it in case that wasn't clear.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Talk About a Delimma

I did not realize I would find so little time to maintain a blog. And it’s not that I’m busy every minute of the day it’s that when I’m not busy I try not to do anything work related and since this blog is about my barbecue journey I may subconsciously think of it was work.

Well my latest thing is how can you be happy and angry about something at the same time? While I’m ecstatic about the success of the business, I’m angry because it good enough to let Neil walk away from his job but not enough for me to walk away from mine.

I know for market days Neil and Glenn put in way more hours then I do but on their off days. They are actually off. Sometimes I get up in the morning while Neil lies their and I know he doesn’t have to move until noon (if my mom has the baby). The other morning I was getting dressed, while Neil and sleeping. Morgan woke up so I went and got her and the three of us crawled back in bed. I didn’t get up until 8:15. I’m supposed to be at work at 8:30.

Right now at work, we're going though a RIF (reduction in force). I’m being bumped out of my position into a lower one and further away (not by much. This doesn’t take affect until June 30. Granted I’m one of the more fortunate ones that would still have a job but I would much rather work from home. That means Neil has to work like a dog in order to do that so that I go from being angry to sad.

Why anyone would ever want to grow up is beyond me. To bad Benjamin Button moments are only for the movies because the stuff you learn and can pass on, the younger ones don’t want to hear, just like we didn’t listen when we had the opportunity.

Anyone I want everyone to pray that we are in a financial position where I can quit my job in June rather than being forced into somewhere else I would rather not be.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jealous Heffa's

I didn’t realize it would be such a challenge just to put some words to paper (okay computer) every once in a while. Anyway let me see if I can catch up. It may be long or the rest may wait til another day.

Anyway, I meant to vent about last Thursday at the El Segundo. Boy I was hot like fish grease – AFTER I HAD A CHANCE TO MARINATE ON IT. So we expected to be busy after the Tasting Table article came out Wednesday. And I told you about how Neil’s twitter following more than doubled by the end of the day. Well honey let me tell you...

Usually it takes maybe an hour or so before they get busy. This particular day was not the case. When I called to check in they were already in full swing. I had asked my cousin earlier that day to help out. Boy was I grateful for that.

I got there about my usual time after work. I could not believe our line was as long as it was and people were still coming. My cousin, Ernae looked flustered taking orders and Neil and Glenn couldn’t get the food out fast enough. So I jumped right in. I sliced my first brisket, ya’ll. I kept telling the customers to take pictures because I didn’t know when they would see anything like this again.

Me, Neil and Glenn always act silly when we’re together and the crowd seems to love it. Ernae didn’t find it quite so funny. I told her to lighten up and smile she told me that she had to be nice to the crowd, not to me. A couple of our regulars tried to jump the line by shouting the orders directly to Neil. Cousin wasn’t having that. Neil gave him his first anyway. Nae threatened to walk off at least twice, we asked her not to.

So the evening progresses on and we’re down to our last few scraps of meat and a few customers. One was a female in the military. I don’t know which branch. Neil gave her a taste while she was standing in line and we told her anything she got was $7. There wasn’t much to choose from but she said give me whatever you have. As Neil and Glenn continue to prepare food for a family with small children, this military female nibbled her food and licked her fingers waiting to see if anything was left. She took the last of the burnt ends from the cutting board. The only thing left in the way of meat was 1½ sausage links. There was a woman with the family mentioned earlier that couldn’t decide what she wanted. After tasting from her party she came back and got the last sausage and a half.

So moving on… Neil goes to pay our market fee and they’re packing up. The market manager’s assistant comes and tells me that she wants to see the lady. He said he didn’t know which but she wanted to see her. Since I was the only woman that she dealt with I went over. Do you know what she told me? The other vendors were complaining that we were STEALING THEIR CUSTOMERS. They claimed that because we offered everything the customers weren’t visiting the other booths. By everything they meant the cupcakes and mac and cheese we served that day. Now desserts I can understand because they have lady with a dessert booth. But we only sold 11 cupcakes the whole time we were there. Also how in the hell does mac and cheese stop the sale of crepes, Chinese food kettle corn and the like? The way she put it was that we keep adding something new to the menu. When I gave her the menu I said we do side dishes, I didn’t specify what they were. Again she was right about the cupcakes but she can kiss my whole @$$ about the macaroni and cheese.

While I was there speaking with her I was calm and didn’t think much of it but the closer I got to my car the hotter I got. I explained the situation to everyone and we all got fired up. We had people come from Thousand Oaks and Diamond Bar and such for OUR barbecue. Neil and I put ourselves out there to promote our business. I’m a member of the El Segundo Chamber of Commerce. I didn’t see any of them at the last mixer. So please tell me how you’re promoting your business.

I plan to print out Bigmista’s reviews from various sources as well as the email Neil received from the food editor of the Los Angeles Times and tell them all to blow it out their collective @$$es. Yes I’m still a little mad. What will be there excuse when we’re not selling cupcakes and mc this week?

Oh and Neil informed me that Britt’s Barbecue won’t come to El Segundo unless we leave. This is information Neil got from the market manager. I’m like what the hell? We’re only there for four hours a week. What harm could we possibly do to your business if your food is good? There are restaurants all around us, right behind us as a matter of fact, that are open during the market. So he’s another you can add to the a-kiss list because we’re not leaving any time soon.

Okay this has gone on long enough. I will tell you guys about last Saturday hopefully before this Saturday gets here.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Does That Help Me Now

As some of you know Neil does bbq competitions with his fellow teammates and bloggers, Four Q. When they decided to do their first competition in 2006, their motto was “have fun/don’t come in last”. They took fifth in ribs. When Neil decided that he wanted to do more competitions, we agreed that the household funds would not be used to support his habit.

The way he fed this monkey was to raise money by cooking. His first cook was on the house as seed money. That money had to be turned over to make more money. Yet another clue as to how we got here. The more he competed the more he wanted to compete. It was no longer about just having fun he wanted to win.

Fast forwarding, Neil no longer cooks for “the fun of it”; it’s to make a living. He now feels that money from the business should be used to support his competition fix. Something I failed to mention was that whenever the team won, Bigmista pocketed the money for more competitions. This is even after he started using business money to compete. Now for the most part I would agree this would now be a vein of the business accept for the fact that 1) he competes under Four Q, not Bigmista, 2) the competitions are on days that we have markets. We’re a one trick pony until the new smoker arrives and preps for the fixins’ (sink, etc.), and if he has the equipment the only money we would make is if he won, and 3) the business is putting out money for gas, meat, and competition fees that we may not recoup. And if he makes nothing he looks to the business account for money for his next fix.

Now while I love Sylvie (Soul Fusion Kitchen), Shu (Professor Salt) and Luis (BBQ Junkie), and wish Four Q would win every competition it does nothing for my family as a whole to have my family’s livelihood at the mercy of some judge’s taste bud. I have explained to Neil that right now his reward should be the fact that he is making money doing something he loves as well as the fact that people are lining up for his food and spreading the word at an alarming rate.

Our last discussion about this he told me that he made a commitment to the team and I reminded him that his commitment to me and his daughter come first. He had no response. I also reminded him of his post on the bbq-brethren about business before comps. Guess who is still leaving on the 24th. He tries to pacify me by saying he’s not doing anymore this year. BIG WOO!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Someone Find Me Some Help

Well Neil had a write up on the Tasting Table. They visited the Watts market this past Saturday and stopped by Atwater on Sunday coming from Pasadena. This write up blew up his twitter following by 100% at last look. Now mind you Bigmista Neil and I had a disagreement this morning and I threatened him with a 9-5 because I could not find the receipt book for Torrance (Tuesday) market. So if I'm frustrated behind that, what will my life be like with even more numbers to crunch?

Torrance market is the only one I am unable to attend on a regular basis since it is during the day. I wasn't up to doing the receipts last night so I decided to bring them to work and do it on my lunch hour. No one knew where the daggone receipt book was. Depending on any given day, there are 3-6 ppl at a market and two of them live in my house. Neither one of them could tell me where to find the book.

I am humbled and grateful for my husband’s success but someone take pity on the great and powerful oz behind the screen. And don't get it twisted, I know it's all about the food but one of the reasons it took Neil so long to accept his calling is because I refused to become a restaurant management type and he just wants to cook. So not only do I crunch numbers, I create and send out catering quotes and contracts, contact markets to see if they have openings, etc. So a sista is tired.

We have Vonage, which I love, and it allows us to forward the business number to our various phones. The phones were ringing so much after the Tasting Table blast this morning that I had to take my number off the simulring list. I sent the link to my cousin and she told me she was already on their list but hadn’t received anything. When she checked again she proceeded to tell me what a big deal this was.

So unless I teach Ms. Morgan how to type and answer phones, I am in for a world of hurt.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More About Before

Today we were at the Watts Market. It was a pretty good day by Watts standards. We had a guy come from Diamond Bar for our food. He said he would be back in two weeks and I promised him mac and cheese. That was before I remembered the guys would be in Indio at a competition. We also have charity event we're doing the Friday before.

I'll be back I have work on my cousins taxes. Oh, I forget to mention I used to work for H & R Block. I will tell you about that later.

Where I Went Wrong

Well it's Saturday morning. Morgan is still sleep and I hear the van outside rumbling getting ready to take Neil to the Watts Farmer's Market. The house is quiet which is rare when everyone is awake and home. I used to go with them but since Watts is slow, two people can handle it.

My mom used to watch Morgan for me on Saturday but I got her and my cousin selling Bigmista desserts at the Watts market now, so it's just me and Morgan. Most people try to sleep in on Saturday morning. I get up after everyone is gone and enjoy the peace and quit before Ms. Morgan shows her happy face. And it's because of this peace and quiet that I can now sit and type.

For those of you who don't know the meaning of the word widow used in this context it means my husband gives his life for all things bbq. My descent into this world started soon after our marriage in 2004. Before that it was the computer. She's still his other woman but comes up way short now.

But even before we were married but after we were living together I tried to convince Neil to go to culinary school. He just has a natural knack for food. He was working from home as a web designer so it was the perfect opportunity, since most the classes were during the day. Needless to say he didn't listen and went to school to get his CCNA. He was doing quite well, but I can’t remember the reason, he stopped going after needing only one class to finish. I forgot to mention that my husband is very book smart as well. He was heavily recruited out of high school because of his football AND academic skills.

Okay, I’m back I will try not to digress to much but our past ties into so many things we do now that Neil and I refer to it often. Anywho Neil is a fabulous cook all the way around. For our first date it fixed me jambalaya with a cucumber and tomato salad. We never parted much after that. He even wrote a cookbook titled Secret Sex Recipes to Get You Laid. I will tell you more about that later. He started hanging out on this website called the BBQ-Brethren. When Neil posted how he cooked ribs they literally laughed at him for days. If he were an emotional man he would have cried from all the flack he took.

After posting, reading and becoming friends with a few of the guys on the site Neil decided he wanted a smoker. At that time we lived in a two bedroom apartment, UPSTAIRS, with a balcony. Me being the wife I am said sure. I didn’t know he was going to drag me around to look at the darn things. Neil is one of the few men who like to shop as long as it’s for MANLY things. He finally settled on a char griller minus the woodbox. I was the family handyman but Neil decided he wanted to be the one to put this thing together since it was his.

And so it began.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Did I Get Here

Here I sit finishing a revised quote for a party on the 17th wondering how I got here. By here I don't mean my desk. I mean a business owner of something I never even imagined. A business that is quickly growing to be a success.

We "officially" started Bigmista Barbecue I will say in November when we started our first farmer's market in Watts, Neil was cooking long before that though. I thought this would be something for him to do just because he loves to cook so much, so why continue to play. Let's make a little money at this.

The orignal plan was to do a couple of markets on the weekend and then try and expand within a year or two. If things took off then Neil would quit his job in August when Ashton, his son, turned 18. After working the really slow season, November/December, of the market we spoke to the market manager about maybe doing another. She put us in touch with the market manager at Atwater Village so we started there in mid- to late- January if I'm not mistaken.

Atwater turned out to be better then Watts on most days. When we had our first $400 day we were so excited we said hey lets add another. I called around to a few places to see if we could get in somewhere else. As it turned out Lawndale which I had contacted back in November and forgot about called us. The manager I called about a Friday market had no openings but said she could place us Tuesday morning in Torrance. Who eats barbecue in the morning. I'll tell you who in a later post.

It's still January and the discussion for us has turned to how soon will Neil quit his job. It was definitely before August. Well I spoken to the market manager at El Segundo who told me she already had a bbq person but they weren't happy and they weren't making any money. she said she would call if things changed. Well she called the beginning of February. After that Neil quit his job a week and a half later. We now consider a $400 day a slow day.

To give you more background as to why I ask how did I get here I majored in Finance, personal finance to be more precise. I wanted to help people manager their money. I do on a small scale, but my plan was to start a non-profit and show people how to manger their finances and stop living from paycheck to paycheck.

I always knew Neil's calling was food but I flat out told anyone who would listen I was not getting involved. I would also tell them how Neil always wants to cook the beans but he doesn't want to count them. Boy was I ever right, but that's for another entry.

So here I sit contemplating building a bbq empire and planning our next move. Wondering what the new smoker will look like and where will we get the money to open a spot by year's end. I'm surrounded by receipt books, quotes, purchase orders and the like. I applied to Mt. Sac so that I can take restaurant management classes. Hopefully I can get something online since most of the classes are during the day.

So please, come with me as I remember my past and plan our future on my journey from a barbecue widow to a...?