Cooking has always been a big part of our family. My Grandmother, Jane Tucker, and mother Robin Heim are some of the best cooks around. At an early age, I would love to help them in the kitchen and learn everything I could about different family recipes. When I was 13 years old I smoked my first brisket on my grandfather’s old smoker, it was terrible. But that first 14 hour cook started a passion for BBQ that I never could shake. Emma and I first met not long after that in Junior High school at a church event. Although we didn’t start dating until late in high school, I knew early on that she was “the one” for me.
After high school we moved to East Texas for college and it was at that time that my passion for all things BBQ turned into an obsession…My roommates and I would travel to out of the way hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints, smoke meat on the weekend (whenever we weren’t dead broke…), and I even helped lead a weekly guys Bible study conveniently hosted at a local BBQ joint. After college, Emma and I got married and moved back home to Fort Worth. It’s safe to say that Emma has eaten more bad BBQ those first few years than most folks will eat in their lifetime! From smoking meat on a converted trash can smoker, to a makeshift smoker made out of a weber grill, it wasn’t until my in-laws gave me my first real smoker that things started to turn for the better.
After cooking a few briskets for church lunches it was clear that it wasn’t just my family being polite, but that I was somewhat decent at this, so I was encouraged by a lot of people to keep learning and trying new things. After some encouragement from my friend Aaron Franklin, Emma and I decided to start backyard “pop-up” dinners that we called T & E MEATclub. It was a goofy, underground dinner party that focused on BBQ, but we were also able to try out different recipes and see what our friends and family liked and disliked. I offered my uncle, Roger Heim, $300 for an old smoker that he had built at the family farm in Marshall, Texas. Even though the smoker was worth maybe 10 times that much, he said “come and get it” and gave it to me for free. So like kids on Christmas morning we took the $300 and rented a truck and trailer from U-haul and grabbed our dog, Frank, and cruised down to Marshall the next morning. We somehow drug the smoker, full of a dozen or more wasp nests, back to Arlington where my brother in law, James Miner, was kind enough to let us park it for a while.
Over the next year we would host various MEATclub’s at their house, friends houses, and even local restaurants after hours. The focus was to cook the best BBQ possible, make all our sides and desserts from scratch, have cold beer, and live music in a fun and inviting atmosphere. We quickly outgrew our surroundings though as more and more folks found out about our secret BBQ parties and we realized that we needed to grow if we wanted to keep this thing going! Over this time we were also fortunate enough to be invited to cook with some truly incredible pitmasters all over the country.
After a brief visit to Austin to look at possibly working for some friends down there we came across the food truck for lease in Fort Worth. It was a huge risk or “leap of faith” but we spent all the money in our savings account on the deposit, and all the money in our checking account to buy supplies for our first day open…Not the smartest way to start a business, but because of the support of our friends and family we were able to survive those first few weeks and start gaining momentum. After a few really positive reviews and a ton of word of mouth we quickly realized that our one smoker from my uncle was nowhere near big enough to supply the ever increasing demand. So a few months after opening we set up a kickstarter to help raise funds for a new smoker. We set our goal at $4,500, which we had little confidence we would make in the required 30 days. But like a lot of times in our story, we underestimated the kindness and support of our awesome customers, friends, and family. We were able to raise the required $4,500 in about 7 hours…wow! So we kept it rolling and ended up raising just north of $15,000 in the 30 days. With these funds we were able to build our massive new smoker. Again, our friend Aaron Franklin helped us out by selling us a 1,000 gallon propane tank and trailer for dirt cheap and we enlisted the services of a local company, Pallet Smart to weld together our design. The result is a massive 24ft smoker that will be a cornerstone of our business for years to come.
After about 6-7 months in we were fortunate enough to meet our business partners, Will and Rachael Churchill and Corrie Watson. They are some of the most awesome people ever! After turning down dozens of opportunities for different investments and other deals for a beautiful 1921 built property they own off Magnolia Ave. in Fort Worth, we met with them to discuss making it the next Heim BBQ. Through our partnership with them we were able to design and build our DREAM restaurant, in an incredible old building just a few blocks from where I grew up. It was crucial to Emma and I that we stay in Fort Worth if we were ever able to expand from out of the food truck. We turned down multiple offers for a million different investment deals because none of them felt right or compromised our goal to be in our hometown of Fort Worth. After a lot of analyzing and praying we felt that this opportunity was the perfect next step for our family and we made another huge “leap of faith.”
It is crazy for us to think that only a little over a year ago we were selling barbecue out of a parking lot just to make some extra cash and now we are being included in local and national press for our BBQ. The support that we have received from our community has been unbelievable, and that has been a huge encouragement to us and a big part of why we are so excited to share our story, and more importantly, our food with more and more folks. We hope that our restaurant always stays true to our original goal with our MEATclub backyard parties: served the absolute best quality BBQ, sides and desserts we possibly can in the most fun and inclusive atmosphere possible. Our restaurant has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we are extremely happy to share our dream with all of you.
Travis & Emma Heim