Chef Chat, Part 1: Gilbert Arismendez of Phil's Texas Barbecue

In June, Phil's Texas Barbecue at 110 S. Heights Boulevard and Washington fired up its smokers and opened for business. We caught up with Phil's pitmaster Gilbert Arismendez to discuss the best day for opening a restaurant.

Eating Our Words: Your grand opening was in Jun,e but that wasn't the original target date. Tell me about that.

Arismendez: We originally were shooting for April but construction kept falling behind. So we didn't get our occupancy permit until June, and we opened up on a Thursday. Normally, in the restaurant business, you don't want to start on a Thursday because that's when the busy time really starts. So by opening up on a Thursday, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. But we've since gotten over our opening day jitters.

EOW: Did any of these jitters have to do with your barbecue pits?

Arismendez: Yeah. One of the pits was brand-new, and it wasn't really seasoned yet. So things didn't taste as it normally would. But since then, the new pit is now getting to where it should be and meats are coming out the way they should. So things are working out for the best.

EOW: So how do the flavors from a seasoned pit differ from a brand-new one?

Arismendez: The new ones really haven't had time to hold all the smoke on the walls. I mean, you still clean your pits to get rid of the grunge. But with walls that are seasoned with smoke, there's more smoke for the meats. It really helps the cooking process.

EOW: How long does it take for you to consider a pit well-seasoned?

Arismendez: If you're cooking on it everyday, I'd say it would take six months for that pit to be truly seasoned. We actually have two pits, one of which was bought used. So it came seasoned.

EOW: What are the differences between your two barbecue pits?

Arismendez: They're both like twins. One's just older than the other.

EOW: Did you get to pick out the twins yourself?

Arismendez: No, but I was fortunate enough that they chose pits I already had experience using. They did their research and picked out one of the best pits out there.

Tune in tomorrow to see how Phil's is trying to set itself apart from the local competition and get some expert smoking advice from the pitmaster.

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