Celebrity Pitmaster Neil "Bigmista" Strawder Heading Back Home for One-Day Barbecue Extravaganza
The Rev. Chester J. Makowski, Vicar of St. Augustine and Neil "Bigmista" Strawder share a laugh in the church's kitchen.
Photos by Groovehouse
Good things always come in threes: First, it was the smashingly successful Houston Barbecue Festival. Then it was the annual Foodways Texas symposium, which spotlighted barbecue. Now it's news that California-based celebrity pitmaster Neil "Bigmista" Strawder is headed back to his hometown of Galveston for a one-day-only meat-filled extravaganza that barbecue devotees absolutely should not miss. I hear Texas will even revoke your Official Barbecue Fan® permit if you do.
This is the third year that Galveston boy-done-good Strawder has returned to the island to host the 3rd annual BBQ Fundraiser for his childhood church, St. Augustine of Hippo. As the oldest African-American Episcopal church in Texas, the old lady needs continual repairs and renovations to keep her looking her loveliest. Strawder's fundraiser brings in financial assistance the good, old-fashioned way: with a community barbecue on Saturday, April 27.
The church has served its surrounding community for more than 125 years.
The first fundraiser supported the construction of a community garden behind the 129-year-old church -- something vital in the Lasker Park neighborhood, which has very few grocery stores or access to fresh foods. The church also operates St. Vincent's House, a long-running non-profit that serves "the disadvantaged, underserved and working poor population" of Galveston by offering day care, free clinics and food pantries, among other services.
This year, Strawder is bringing the cavalry with him. He'll need it to serve the waves of people that will show up on April 27, if the success of first and second BBQ Fundraisers are anything to judge this year's attendance by. In addition to Strawder's famous briskets and smoked chicken, the St. Augustine parish crew will also be serving barbecue from a lineup of barbecue champions from Texas and beyond, including:
- Ernest Servantes, Burnt Bean Co. and 2012 Food Network Chopped Grillmaster Champion
- Ernest Ramirez, Salt Creek BBQ
- Sergio Yebra, Whatever Cookers
- Craig Sharry, Texas Pepper Jelly
- Patrick Mullins, PM Cookers
- Ed Rios, DIM Fiefelmann Cookers
- Patrick Moore, Monster BBQ Pit
- Jim Puccetti, Lighthouse Charity Team
- Donnie Thomas, Infamous Pitmaster
- Harry Jones, High Voltage Cookers
- Drew Smoke, Sweetmon's BBQ
- Dean Olson, Arizona BBQ Club
- Donnie Thomas, The Fabulous Pitmaster
Strawder's smoked chicken with subtle jerk spices is the stuff of legend.
The festivities kick off at 11 a.m. on Saturday and end when all the food is gone (which will likely be around 1 p.m.). Tickets are $10 for a one-meat meal with two sides, a bread and dessert or $13 for a two-meat meal. You can also buy a whole rack of ribs for $30, a half turkey breast for $50 or a whole turkey breast for $75. A whole brisket also goes for $75.
St. Augustine of Hippo is located at 1410 41st Street at Avenue M 1/2. There's limited room to eat in the church's air-conditioned dining hall, but come prepared to eat outside.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.