Giant BBQ
Darwin & Lauren Hoel
Universal City, Texas

One man’s search for good BBQ

When Texas is a large part of your family history, you can hardly escape from the lure of BBQ.  So it was that as a kid visiting my grandparents in San Antonio they would often take us to their favorite BBQ restaurant called the Bean Pot. It was a clean cafeteria style place with nice tables and chairs, schooners of cold beer, and two kettles of beans at a table along the wall where you could serve yourself all the pinto beans you could eat. It was near the intersection of Austin Hwy. and Broadway in Alamo Heights.

Over the years I watched my granddad try to cook brisket on a 55 gallon drum in his backyard. It was never very good and I always wished that I could unlock the secrets of real good BBQ.

Fast forward to 1994, I accepted a teaching position at Judson High School in Converse, Texas teaching various electronics courses.  I got to know the welding instructor and eventually the discussion came to BBQ.  He happened to be building thirty BBQ pits with his students to sell off as a class fundraiser.  That was all I need to hear. For $135.00 I was soon the proud owner of a 24" x 36" BBQ pit. 

I used that pit often and tried my best to unlock the BBQ mystery, but not having a mentor to show me the way, I was still lost.  Not until 2004 did I finally make some real headway with smoking a brisket and ribs.  The change came when I joined the Texas BBQ Rub discussion forum.  The information enshrined in a good BBQ forum is a goldmine. That coupled with the great folks that are members of the board and you can't help but improve your skills.

Me with my new pit

On October 5th 2005 I picked up my first real BBQ pit. A custom made rig that I designed made by Gator Pit of Texas in Houston. I soon began making plans for a small cook shack in my backyard.  As often happens with me and small scale plans the little cook shack/lean-too soon became a project.  Over the winter of 2006 I built the 10' x 14' structure you see here.

The Q-Bana
I was off and running, my backyard BBQ setup was complete.

Competition BBQ
and the reluctant competition cooker

April 15th 2009
After dinner one night in February 2007 my wife Lauren and I were chatting while cleaning up our dinner dishes.  I was explaining to her the little I knew about competition BBQ.  My only reference were the three times I had visited my friends during a few of their competitions.  At some point I mentioned that my new friends Doug and Craig were facing a turning point on their team, Crapshoot BBQ. Doug and his wife were planning to retire to the Philippines leaving my friend Craig to cook by himself.  She suggested that I take his place.  I was incredulous!  First of all I was a "Back Yard Cooker" and a serious one at that. I had no time for this foolishness of competitive BBQ with judging and turn in times.  I wanted nothing to do with it.   In addition I was very put off by the notion that I should nominate myself to their cooking team.  Lauren was completely unfazed by my resistance and arguments against filling Doug’s spot and insisted that it was absolutely proper that I should do this bit of unabashed self promotion. After an hour of thorough explanations and extended reasoning of why I couldn‘t just up and nominate myself, she would not see things my way so I just gave up! OK, I said. "I'll send him an e-mail right now" which I did with much apprehension.  That will be the end of this short friendship I thought. Within 24 hours I was on the Crapshoot BBQ team in training for Doug's slot.  I still cannot believe how it all panned out but I’m forever grateful to my wife for her vision and persistence in making that initial contact with Craig..

Her rational went like this.  My dear friend Allen and his family, with whom we spent many a fun filled weekend, had just lately transferred to Montana. In addition, my closest friend, Chuck Cooke was fighting a losing battle against peritoneal cancer and would soon be in hospice. Lauren could see me barreling towards a huge hole in my life. To her, this was a perfect way to begin to build a new social life while doing what I enjoyed. It turned out to be a perfect fit. 

Moondance BBQ

May 1st 2009

So after some thirty-five contests over the past two years or so I've decide to start my own BBQ competition team.  The ride to Houston is beginning to wear on me as well as wanting to stretch my cookers wings, so I've decided to start cooking closer to home now on my very own team.  My wife Lauren will be joining me on 99% of the cooks. We're both very excited about this new adventure.

I had a great run with Crapshoot BBQ and will miss cooking with my friend and cooking partner, Craig Sharry.  Both Craig and Doug were great mentors for me.  So I'll say "Thank You Craig and Doug for all you have taught me"  We will still cook at about six cooks each year as friends and opponents and may join forces as Crapshoot BBQ again if an out of state contest seems like a good idea to us (cooking alone can be tricky).

The name of our new team will be "Moondance BBQ".  I've ordered a custom mobile competition BBQ pit from Ritch over at Gator Pit of Texas in Houston which I picked up on the 22nd of May 2009.


We will split our contests between IBCA and Texas Gulf Coast BBQ Cookers Association, Lone Star BBQ Society and Central Texas BBQ Association contests and might travel for an occasional KCBS cook as well.

Giant BBQ

May 29th 2010
So after just eight cooks entered as Moondance BBQ Lauren suggested that Moondance BBQ didn't quite fit me though she appreciated the gesture of including her in the choice of the name.  Craig had suggested Moondance BBQ as a name that had special meaning to Lauren and I.  It was our wedding song and one of Laurens favorite songs of all time.  It was a great idea.

At this point I enlisted the help of my fellow Cinco De Guyos to help me find a cool name. After a few shots in the dark my buddy Mike came up with "Giant" as it had an connotation of Texas through the movie and also made reference to my size.  It took a few days to grow on me.....I liked it.

The CCRA Get Your Cook-On Cook-Off  at Mansfield Park in Bandera, Texas was the first cookoff I entered as Giant BBQ.  I took my first Grand Champion that day.  Come what may I'll not change names again.    Giant I shall be until my last cook....