“I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what I heard when I first made the switch from a cashier to pithand at Two Bros. BBQ Market in San Antonio, Texas. I was the bubbly cashier, and working in the pits is a dirty job. I wore make-up and earrings. But I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty. Eventually, the make-up melts off and you stop wearing dangly earrings because it’s a hazard. So that changed, but it wasn’t something that bothered me.

I had to prove some people wrong, but that was good motivation.

I’ve always been in the restaurant industry. My first job in high school was at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I was a cashier on the weekend, which I loved. After that, I started getting in on the serving side, where I would end up spending nine years. I waited tables and was really good at it. Plus, good money. I’ve worked at a bunch of different restaurants around town. I had been working at the JW Marriott, but it was super corporate. I worked there for about two-and-a-half years and I just wanted something different, something more local.

A friend who I used to work with told me to apply at Two Bros. It’s locally owned by Jason Dady, my boss now. I started waiting tables but I needed another part-time job. The pit master at the time had come in looking for part-time cashiers, so I just started cashiering here a couple days a week and eventually moved up to full-time.

That’s when I realized I wanted to get in the pits.

I started coming in on my days off. I shadowed people and cleaned, and I fell in love with it. I wasn’t planning on that, but one thing just kind of led to another. A spot opened up for me to join the team, and I moved into it.

At first I was viewed as the make-up wearing cashier. But once I got into it and I fell in love with it, everyone shut up.

My aha moment came when I came up with a new process for making brisket. Brisket is king in Texas. You judge the barbecue restaurant based off the brisket. If the brisket sucks, the whole place sucks.

I had to prove some people wrong, but that was good motivation.

I was working as lead pit hand and my boss came in with a Yeti cooler. In this new wave of barbecue, all the restaurants had found a way to use these coolers to finish up, or hold, the brisket to keep the juices inside. Well, we had never done that before, so we weren’t interested. But, over time, I thought, “Let me try to figure this Yeti thing out.” Brisket is finished up at closing time, and I was already working that shift five nights a week.

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I would just play around with putting briskets in the Yeti overnight. There were all sorts of variables, so it took me about six months to a year to really nail it. But even though it was working, I wasn’t pitmaster yet, so nobody else was on board.

A year-and-a-half after I started working in the pits, I was promoted to pitmaster. Then, I started training people with my method. It’s become so consistent. It’s just like a well-oiled machine, just like clockwork. We have this great system down that I basically implemented from the ground up, that I fought people on, and now it’s not only come into play–it’s the standard.

It’s a great feeling. I literally busted my ass for a long time trying to figure it out, and then it was hard to get people on board. But then I did and now the brisket is better than it’s ever been. It’s consistent. There’s a nice, pretty bark on it, and after you pull it out of the Yeti and start cutting, it’s perfect. We’re not scrambling in the morning to finish it up. I took something that had been used for seven years and changed it. And it’s better. It’s a great feeling.

It’s not really common to make the switch from front-of-house to the pits. It’s two totally different beasts, if you will. When you’re waiting tables, you become the face and it’s all about customer service. It’s all about body language and just making people feel comfortable. When you’re in the back of the house cooking, you’re sweaty and you never stop moving.

For me, it was easier. I was good at talking to guests because I had been a server for so long I carried those skills over to the pits. We have a pretty elaborate pit room outside that you don’t really see at even a lot of barbecue restaurants. So people from all over the world come in and want to take pictures and ask questions. You have to be able to talk to them and make them feel comfortable.

It’s a great feeling. I literally busted my ass for a long time trying to figure it out, and then it was hard to get people on board. But then I did and now the brisket is better than it’s ever been.

I’ve been pitmaster for almost two years now, and I wouldn’t change anything about how I arrived here. There were times when I got frustrated because other people were out there doing things incorrectly, and it would cross over into the food. I would just tell myself to stick with it and to stay positive and just work through it.

Now, we just keep getting busier and busier. We’ve done a really good job at keeping up with demand. We’re ready to push ourselves even more.

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Laura Loomis is pitmaster at Two Bros. BBQ Market, a Texas-based barbecue restaurant that makes award-winning dishes in custom-made smoke pits. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.