The unassuming trailer in Hutto might not look like much, but Pustka Family Barbeque is the real deal. Dustin Pustka found a way to turn his family’s passion into a full-time business and, in the words of Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, is executing “like a pro.”
Tell me about the first person who taught you about barbecue.
My dad. Growing up, he bought himself a small pit on a trailer and started cooking. He probably threw a lot of barbecue to the dogs or had lots of chopped beef learning how to cook brisket. But to this day, he still throws down some mean barbecue. It was because of him that I grew a passion for the art of cooking barbecue. With so many variables that can make or break a cook, it’s the challenge of it all that I thrive on.
Do you remember a backyard or a barbecue joint that started your barbecue obsession?
Probably my own backyard growing up. I come from a big family that likes to throw big parties, so growing up we were always having get-togethers and something was either being grilled or smoked. That desire of gathering people together came with me into my adult years and I’ve started having my own barbecue gatherings for friends and family.
What message are you trying to share to your customers through your food?
As a kid, I always loved to be in the kitchen with my mom or grandmother. I loved the whole process of making something from scratch with my own two hands and feeding people with the final product—still do. Food is comfort, and it’s comforting for me to be able to bring that feeling to others when they eat my food. When you come to my place and eat my food, I want you to feel like you’re a part of our family, sitting at our dinner table. Bringing folks together through my food is what it’s all about.
As a professional pitmaster, are you a BBQ Freak just like the rest of us? When is the last time you ate someone else’s barbecue besides your own?
I do love to eat barbecue, but, admittedly, I don’t have much free time to go and try other barbecue. Between running the trailer six days a week and raising two beautiful little girls with my amazing wife, there’s not much time left over. The last time I ate someone else’s barbecue was a month or so ago. I thoroughly enjoyed some good groceries from Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue.
What’s the most surprising barbecue dish you’ve eaten?
Not exactly barbecue in the sense of traditional smoked low and slow, but one of the more interesting things was wood-grilled kangaroo. When running upscale kitchens, I ordered some in for a special, not thinking it would sell, but I was wrong! Sold out in an hour!
What’s the best beverage to wash down barbecue?
Ice-cold beer, no doubt.
What’s a tool you use in cooking that might not seem like an obvious barbecue tool?
I sell a lot of elotes, where I char the fresh corn over an open fire. My mom found this Pampered Chef gadget that strips the corn off the cob. Big time saver, which allows more time to tend to the pits.
What recommendations do you have for someone new to Texas ’cue?
Get out there and eat as much as you can. There is so much kick-ass barbecue in this great state being put out by the most incredible folks. It’s cool to see the subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences from the different regions around Texas. Support them as much as you can!