Local firefighter turns pitmaster, opens new restaurant in Orange City

Craig Kimmel has won more than 400 state and national BBQ competitions

ORANGE CITY, Fla. – A local firefighter and pitmaster is opening up an outdoor restaurant in Volusia County, but his firefighter brothers didn’t always like his food.

It all started in 1993 when rookie firefighter Craig Kimmel began working at a fire station in Wekiva Springs.

"There was a smoker there and they said 'you're going to cook,'" said Kimmel.

But Kimmel was anything but successful in feeding his fellow fireman.

"It was called 'structure fire chicken.' The guys said it was the worst chicken they've ever eaten and threw it at the wall," said Kimmel.

Fast-forward 27 years later. Kimmel is still a full time firefighter and paramedic at the Seminole County Fire Department. Each week he transitions from fireman to pitmaster at FireHouse BBQ in Orange City.

For nearly 30 years, Kimmel has traveled the country studying BBQ techniques, creating recipes and bringing them back to Central Florida. He started a FireHouse BBQ food truck and even won more than 400 state and national BBQ competitions including the TV show competition, BBQ Pitmasters.

"Being a fireman actually helps because we understand fire. We understand the way that it looks, if it's too sooty, if it's burning clean... The way fire reacts to certain things. I think that's what helps us in the BBQ industry," said Kimmel.

Kimmel is opening a new restaurant with his partner Larry Jordan. FireHouse BBQ is located behind Dale's Ales along 2400 North Volusia Avenue in Orange City.

Kimmel is from Florida and Jordan from Texas, which makes for an interesting menu including Bourbon baked beans, key lime slaw and BBQ Sundaes. They say the atmosphere is family-friendly and they play Blues music.

"Everything we do is not can-to-pan, it's all handmade from sauces to key lime coleslaw," said Kimmel.

Kimmel and Jordan say FireHouse BBQ is all about passion and bringing the community together through good food.

"It's fun and it's not even like a job, we work hard," said Jordan.

"The same guys that threw my chicken were here eating my BBQ and saying 'this isn't structure fire chicken anymore,'" said Kimmel.

Kimmel says it’s difficult juggling his full time firefighting job, running FireHouse BBQ and being a father to two teen girls. But he’ll continue to run FireHouse BBQ as long as he remains passionate about BBQ.

About the Author: