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Hidden Gems: Meet Omar Pinal of Nono’s Craft Barbecue

Today we’d like to introduce you to Omar Pinal.

Hi Omar, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Like most individuals who are interested in learning to cook barbecue, I got started at home on a small backyard cooker.

When I started sharing food with neighbors and bringing my smoked meats to parties, I began getting some great feedback about my food. I was excited when I was asked to provide all the food for a few parties and even more excited that everyone loved it so much.

As I started learning more about smoking different types of meats, experimenting with recipes and seasonings, and cooking every weekend to master the skill of making great bbq, I started toying with the idea of starting my own catering company.

After some research, I found out what it would take to start a licensed business and what I needed in regards to certifications, permits, licenses, and additional equipment.

But before I get ahead of myself, first things first, I needed a name for the Business. At that time, my son Noah, then four years old, was my cooking buddy. Since we have been calling him Nono from the day he was born, we thought that Nono’s Craft Barbecue would be a catchy name for a family business that we could build together.

Currently, I am doing pop-ups for breweries in the north county area. Every weekend you can find Nono’s Craft Barbecue at a brewery in North County, with my 250-gallon smoker in tow.

We post about our upcoming events on Instagram @nonoscraftbarbecue. We currently love visiting all the different breweries and meeting new and returning customers in the area, but the long-term goal is to eventually expand and move to a more permanent spot.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
My business was beginning to take off, and I actually got to cook for my first large brewery event in the early weeks of March 2020. Then everything came to a screeching halt when the government announced a country-wide shutdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Little by little restaurants and food service providers were being phased back to open for business. As luck would have it for me, most of the local breweries didn’t serve food, so they needed to fill that gap in order to open. This was the perfect opportunity for Nono’s Craft Barbecue to really get out there. As time passed, breweries and food service rules and conditions changed almost weekly.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Making great barbecue has become a passion for me. Everything I make or cook I do with pride, and I take my time selecting quality ingredients and meticulously cooking everything to ensure I’m able to offer a consistently great product that will keep customers wanting to come back for more. This is not just a business. Smoking these meats and making these sides are truly a labor of love for me. My greatest reward is when someone tells me my food was delicious and the best barbecue they’ve ever had.

I think traditional barbecue is a niche that has needed to be filled in So-Cal. Yes, there are some barbecue restaurants, but not many of them smoke their food old school, as some of the great barbecue establishments do. I’d like to think that we are bringing a fresh experience to the community, and I’m often complimented by out-of-state visitors or new residents who miss their hometown barbecue joint and are excited to get a little taste of home.

I’d say we’re most known for our beef brisket and our made from scratch sausages. I hand select and trim the meats I use, and I tend the smoker as long as it takes to ensure I’m getting the best-smoked flavor and a fork-tender pull-apart consistency.

I guess I’m most proud of building something from the ground up for my kids and my family. Being a small business owner gives me a lot of pride. It’s a very personal kind of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
When I first started out, I followed some of the best barbecue restaurants and some of the best barbecue pit-masters I could find online. I would read and listen to anything related to Barbecue. One of the books that really helped and is something I still reference today is “A Meat Smoking Manifesto” written by Aaron Franklin. I feel I can relate to his style of preparing food, but I use it as a guide and it’s given me the courage to make the food mine by developing my own seasoning and creating my own flavor profile for my meats and sides.

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