EARLY – Junior Urias, of BBQ Pitmasters television fame, and his family have recently moved from Midland to Brown County and will soon open Up In Smoke BBQ in Early.
Urias plans to have a trailer available at the site of the location, which is being constructed at the intersection of Parkway and Orchard in Early, adjacent to the UPS Store. The trailer will be open before the end of February, Urias said, while the restaurant is expected to be completed and open in the summer.
“It’s happening as we speak, we’re just getting all the paperwork ready and the plans,” Urias said in an interview with BrownwoodNews.com earlier this week. “In the next three weeks we’re going to set up our barbecue trailer. During the construction work we’re going to have that set up and start selling food just to introduce ourselves and let people try our awesome food.”
Urias, who won the title of Texas champion on the BBQ Pitmasters TV reality show in 2014, expects the Up In Smoke restaurant to open in the summer.
“They said three or four months once they get going, so early- or mid-summer, pending the weather,” Urias said.
Urias spoke of his decision to sell his restaurant in Midland and relocate to Brown County.
“We lived in Midland and were just ready to get out of the oil industry and the ups and downs of the oil industry,” Urias said, “The economy in Midland is just crazy right now, the traffic is bad, we’re just trying to get away from all that. We started coming to Lake Brownwood and bought some property and we were coming here on weekends and we thought this was a cool area and we really liked it. My wife really loves the lake. It’s centrally located in Texas so that’s a super good opportunity for me and my business to get people from places like Fort Worth, San Antonio, I even have some customers from Midland willing to come down here once we open. It’s an awesome area, it’s got everything we need.”
Urias stated his passion for cooking began at a young age.
“I started cooking when I was young, I love the passion of cooking,” Urias said. “I wasn’t real good, I was burning stuff, but the passion was there so I kept on doing it until I got better. When I was 17 or 18 I started attending barbecue cook-offs locally. I had fun and invited all my family and friends, they were out there having fun with me. A lot of people were enjoying my food and they would tell me my food was awesome and that I ought to open a restaurant. At the time, 18 or 19 years old, you’re not thinking about that stuff but it stuck with me over the years. Then I started catering and was doing one or two a week maybe. I did just catering only for about six years and we were doing real good, so that’s when we decided to open the restaurant in Midland. We did it from the ground up, we built the restaurant and ran it successfully for a year and a half until the COVID hit. We sold the restaurant and the property, but not the name. Up In Smoke is mine and it’s staying with me until the day I die.”
Regarding the Up In Smoke name, Urias spoke of its origin.
“We were at a cook-off in San Antonio and at the time had an RV with my trailer attached to it,” Urias said. “The trailer had awnings with shade netting. Once when I was inside the RV my fire got so hot it caught the netting on fire. Some guy was knocking on the door to tell me my smoker was on fire. I opened the door and looked out and saw the netting was burning up, and knew the entire pit could have burnt up, and that’s when I thought ‘up in smoke.’”
Urias stated his appearances on multiple TV shows, but especially BBQ Pitmasters, has helped his business tremendously.
“Being on TV shows, it helped my business a lot in Midland,” Urias said. “Not only there, but people know me all over the United States, especially in Texas, and also over in Europe. Making the transition to move here to Early, the only reason I did that is because I think my name and business is well known and I’m able to come in and open up a business without any hesitation.”
Urias recalled how his stint on BBQ Pitmasters almost didn’t happen.
“We auditioned for it in 2012 but we didn’t get on it then,” Urias said. “But in 2014 I got the call. I was at the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo cook-off, which has more than 200 teams, and we already set up and I got the call on Friday night. They asked if I could be in Florida Sunday morning, and at first I thought it was a joke and hung up. They called back and said please don’t hang up, this is serious, but I didn’t know if I could be in Florida by Sunday. I didn’t know how I would make it happen but I said yeah. The first person I called other than my wife was a friend of mind that lived in Florida. The reason I called him is because he cooked on a similar smoker that I was at the time. I contacted him and told him I didn’t know where I was going in Florida, but first can I borrow your pit and then was it possible for you to deliver it to our location. And he said he would do whatever it takes to make it happen.”
Urias has been marred to his wife Jennifer for 22 years and the couple has two children, Quinton and McKenzie.
“Jennifer has helped with the business from the get-go, along with my dad,” Urias said. “Without my family, I wouldn’t be here.”
As for his long-term goals for Up In Smoke in Early, Urias said, “What I want to do with the business is definitely help the community. We helped the Midland community so much with cooking for benefits, helping people out that needed help, donations, and give them good food. People want good food. I wouldn’t say it’s the cheapest but it’s definitely damn good. I want to do that and build the business and see where it takes us.”
Up In Smoke BBQ will also offer catering for all events, a meat market, barbecue and grilling classes, and barbecue and grilling supplies.
For more information visit the Junior Urias – Up In Smoke BBQ Facebook page.
[Story by Derrick Stuckly]