Barbecue community steps up to feed Houstonians impacted by storm.
Cory Crawford knows just how much a hot chopped beef sandwich means to someone who is cold and hungry.
On Sunday, his family’s barbecue joint gave out 5,600 meals to residents in the Acres Homes neighborhood still grappling with the devastating effects of last week’s epic freeze.
“People were crying. Some of them said they were still without power and hadn’t had a hot meal in days,” Crawford said Monday, the day after a community feeding drive at Burns Original Bar-BQue. “People desperately needed those meals. It was a blessing to us that we could provide for them. We touched people who had a need.”
That need for food remained strong throughout the Houston region as communities struggled to get back on their feet after the state’s deadly weather crisis. The city’s hospitality industry — restaurants, breweries, coffee shops — joined with humanitarian efforts big and small to feed people without power and water. Those efforts began last week and continue this week with hunger relief initiatives expanding throughout the area.
Operation BBQ Relief, a coalition of barbecue enthusiasts that deploys to disaster areas, was busy Monday setting up a staging area in Montrose, where it will prepare thousands of meals each day for hungry Houstonians. The meals will be delivered by volunteers for Crowdsource Rescue. Operation BBQ Relief first made friends with the Bayou City when it deployed here after Hurricane Harvey.
Volunteers with high-volume smokers and trucks carrying food began loading into the area over the weekend. On Sunday, with help from Tin Roof BBQ in Atascocita, Operation BBQ Relief was able to produce 2,500 meals. On Monday, it began cranking up operations, with more volunteers arriving to cook meals of pulled pork sandwiches, beans, rice and green beans. At full capacity, they will be able to produce 10,000 meals a day this week, said Stan Hays, co-founder and CEO of Operation BBQ Relief. His crew is prepared to stay the week
“It’s great to come back to a community that wants us here and values what we do,” Hays said. “We wish it were under different circumstances.”
Operation BBQ Relief would normally be in Houston this time of year competing in the rodeo cook-off. In 2019, the team took home overall grand champion at RodeoHouston’s World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.
The organization’s network of
volunteers stepped up for the deployment to hard-hit Houston after the deadly freeze. Those barbecue volunteers include Lee and Paul Carnell from League City, who brought in their 25foot-long smoker to help prepare food.
“We never lost power or water,” said Leigh Carnell, who owns a commercial skylight installation company in Alvin. “Any chance we can give back, it’s the right thing to do.”
Hays said the Carnells are examples of how the barbecue community is willing and uniquely able to feed the needy in times of crisis.
“The barbecue family steps up, whether it’s a local restaurant, competitive barbecuers, or backyard enthusiasts. It’s the most giving community out there,” Hayes said. “Whether it’s a time of celebration or a time of need, barbecue is comfort food. And people who cook barbecue just have that heart for giving.”
Indeed, last week, Ronnie Killen gave out free barbecue brisket sandwiches at his Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland, as well as free burgers from Killen’s Burgers and free breakfast tacos from Killen’s TMX. In total, Killen provided about 6,000 free meals to those without electricity and water.
“I do it because that’s the way my parents and grandparents taught me,” said the chef/pitmaster, who also fed thousands during Hurricane Harvey and provided free meals during the early months of the pandemic.
Killen had to dispose of food at all his restaurants after the power outages but managed to restock and then crank out barbecue and burgers as the community was emerging from the freeze.
“My grandmother always said if you give it, it’ll come back tenfold,” Killen said.
On Monday, Crawford said he was feeling some of that after Burns fed senior citizens and Acres Homes residents over a three-day period, an effort funded by World Central Kitchen, BossLife Foundation and 1501 Certified Ent.
“When you do something good like that, you wake up the next morning feeling good,” said Crawford, adding that Burns will be back to normal service Tuesday. “When you have food to give, you share with others. That’s the mindset of the barbecue community.”