This article is part of a series that spotlights Texas pitmasters in their own words, available exclusively to TM BBQ Club members.

After selling their family landscaping business in Tucson, Mallory and Arnis Robbins moved to Texas with no plans to make a name for themselves in Texas barbecue. But in 2015, the couple opened a highway-side food trailer (named after their daughter, Evie Mae). The joint quickly rose in the ranks, and landed a spot on our list of the Top 25 Best New Barbecue Joints after less than a year in business. Since then, they’ve moved to a brick-and-mortar location, become regulars at BBQ Fest, and even made our Top 50 List in 2017. Below, Arnis opens up about his family’s surprising journey.

Tell me about the first person who taught you about barbecue. 

I didn’t grow up around barbecue—I’m self-taught for the most part. When I began cooking with live fire, I was living in Tucson. There wasn’t a lot of good barbecue around for me to be influenced by. I’m thankful for that.

Do you remember a backyard or a barbecue joint that started your barbecue obsession? 

I remember being in middle school and my family stopping at Louie Mueller in Taylor on a road trip to Bastrop—we have family there. It was probably close to three o’clock and the place was empty. There was one beef rib left in the joint, so our family of five shared it. That is my earliest, and best, barbecue memory. I grew up in Portales, New Mexico. There was a barbecue joint in the neighboring town of Clovis that I remember eating at frequently. It was called Ben’s Barbecue. I only ever remember getting chopped sandwiches, and they were always served with plain Lay’s potato chips and sweet cherry peppers.

What message are you trying to share to your customers through your food? 

Feeding someone barbecue—whether it’s from your restaurant or from your backyard—is a special opportunity. It’s a special food that requires a lot of patience and care to create. So much so that even the average consumer can appreciate it without having a deep understanding of the process. Mallory and I, along with our entire team, hope to create a complete experience for our customers that goes beyond the food.

As a professional pitmaster, are you a BBQ Freak just like the rest of us?

Of course.

When is the last time you ate someone’s barbecue besides your own? 

What’s the most surprising BBQ dish you’ve eaten?

The first time I had chopped whole-hog barbecue with crispy crunchy skin, it blew my socks off. It was so different from what I’ve become accustomed to as pulled pork. The crispy bits mixed throughout really make it. The whole hog had been cooked by Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn.

What’s the best beverage to wash down BBQ? 

What cold beverage doesn’t go well with barbecue? It’s hard to beat a cold beer, but soda and tea are also great. I’m not sure how it would pair with a glass of milk, though.

What’s a tool you use in cooking that might not seem like an obvious barbecue tool? 

We don’t use anything crazy in our cooking process. Fire pokers and your bare hands will do just about anything you need when it comes to cooking. I have used some interesting tools in other areas of the restaurant. Last Thanksgiving, I picked up a water meter that attaches to a hose for filling our stock tanks with water for turkey brine. It was a great improvement on the five-gallon buckets that we used in the past.

What recommendations do you have for someone new to Texas ’cue? 

Eat somewhere multiple times; barbecue is full of variables. Brisket size, how well the wood is seasoned, humidity levels, and a hundred more can all affect the outcome of a twelve-hour cook. Learning to manage and counter these variables is critical.