Bigmista's Barbecue is owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Neil and Phyllis Strawder.
Neil caught the barbecue competition bug back in 2004 and that's where it all kind of kicked off. The business started as a way for Neil to replace Phyllis' shoe budget he was dipping into for barbecue competitions. The idea to compete in the first place came from the great guys Neil met on the BBQ Brethren Forum. After posting, reading and finding community on the site, Neil decided he wanted a smoker. At the time the Strawders lived in a two-bedroom apartment, UPSTAIRS, with a balcony. Phyllis, being the supportive and understanding wife that she is, said sure. As competitions produced awards, so came more request for Neil's signature barbecue.
In October of 2008, Neil and Phyllis decided to make Bigmista's Barbecue official. Instead of opening a brick-and-mortar eatery, the Strawders started vending at the Watts Farmer’s Market. With plans to grow slowly, they hit the road crawling. They discovered that trying to sell barbecue during Thanksgiving and Christmas was a bad idea but hung in there, wanting to see if people would like their food enough to buy it on a regular basis. They hoped that if things went well enough, Neil would be able to leave his job in August of 2009. By February 2009, Bigmista was in five markets and Neil turned in his resignation without any regrets.
Bigmista continues to grow and change with each passing year. Some of the markets where they've done vending are Torrance, Eagle Rock, Silverlake, Lawndale, Echo Park, Sherman Oaks, El Segundo and maybe a few others. The only one they have stayed true to is Atwater Village which help put them on the map. Neil and Phyllis attribute their success to faith in GOD and a very supportive family. Without either, none of this would be possible.
Neil obtained his great love for food from his dad, Henry (Pop) Strawder AND mom, Patricia (Pat) Tate. They are both great cooks in their own right. His second love (being a computer geek) is a distant flicker in his rear view.
Neil has done a lot of things over the course of his life. He was a DJ, bartender, web designer, bodyguard and finally a banker before he gave into his passion and decided to capitalize on his cooking. Now he’s the man with the apron and the big mouth. He loves being out with the crowd and seeing the enjoyment on their faces when his food crosses their lips. He wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Neil's cooking prowess has garnered him a lot of great publicity and many awards since his final career change. He has competed on Season 2 of BBQ Pitmasters as well as The Ultimate BBQ Showdown on CBS. He even wrote a dating cooking book (before Mrs. Mista).
Phyllis avoids cooking as much as possible but jumps in when she has too. She is a forever student with a Bachelor’s degree from CSULA in Finance. She gets her thirst for knowledge from her dad, Phillip (Phil) Williams and her giving nature from her mom, Helen (Hel) Williams.
She was the requisite bbq wife (or widow) with a job and benefits behind the bbq man. Now she's The Money Lady and all things administrative for the business, She also keeps everyone in line, including the customers. She's a has a degree in Finance, completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Entrepreneurial Program, is a Certified KCBS Judge and serves on the Culinary Advisory Board for Long Beach City College.
Although she loves to write she's only taken the time to write one article for the online magazine Smoke Signals. She tried blogging for a while but was short lived as she likes to put pen to paper. Also Bigmista considered her blog post to... for the company site so hence the separate site. Now her mission is to build a bbq empire unlike any other. Sounds like something to write about.
Morgan has been running around the farmers markets since before she was 2. By age 4 she was sitting on a stool at the booth taking orders. She loves her ribs but has moved on to pulled pork being her favorite.
Morgan will let you know that she is the manager of the upcoming restaurant and get's very upset if you say otherwise. She plans to have a new dessert place soon after.
She has yet to figure out how to balance school, friends, karate and mommy telling her to get a job but she' working on it.