Owner of Brothers-N-Arms BBQ brings Marine skills to his Central Florida food truck

Joel Dawson served for 15 years before retiring, starting his own business

ORLANDO, Fla. – Joel Dawson, owner of Brothers-N-Arms BBQ, has cooked meals in some of the most extreme situations a person can imagine.

“I was in Afghanistan — was on the border of Pakistan,” Dawson said. “We’re in the chow hall and... an RPG went off, shook the whole building. It was so intense that it blew all the windows.”

Dawson served as a cook with the Marine Corps for 15 years prior to his retirement. He joined up in 2001 and during his time in the service, Dawson deployed four times.

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“The Marine Corps showed us how to produce mass quantities of food at a quality rate,” Dawson said. “And since then I did in the 15 years of the Marine Corps I managed the dining facilities. I was able to go to Afghanistan a couple of times and I did food service feeding for the warfighters — the guys go on the front lines and had the intestinal fortitude to kick in doors, take names and when they come back successfully, they can come back to a great meal.”


Just before his retirement, Dawson began learning the barbecue business from his father.

“My dad had a barbecue stand, he was working for my cousin. So I was talking to him about that, ‘I want to do that, too.’ I was telling my friends that I wanted to do a food truck and he taught me exactly how to manage a food truck, how to cook it, how to season and how to make it happen.”

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Dawson started Brothers-N-Arms in 2017. Immediately, he was able to put his military experience to use in his business.

“I took the whole architecture designed for the Marine Corps from ordering — because I was with ordering. If a person tells me I have 200 people in my wedding, I know how much to order,” he said. “When they tell us, ‘This is how many we need to feed,’ we go out to the field. You do not ever want to be short.”

Dawson has managed to build his business up over the past six years and is now partnered with another business.

“Our base hub is in Sanford, Florida, at Rockin’ Rhonda’s Neighborhood Bar,” he said. “You can catch us there every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We’ll be there unless we have a special engagement that we’ll be at but right now we opened up our backyard kitchen. So that way if the truck food truck moves, we’ll still have the barbecue on site.”

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Dawson has done it all while raising five children, ranging in age from 22 to his youngest at just 1 year old. Dawson said his 4-year-old has become really enamored with his dad’s work.

“He’s really taken into what I do. He’s mad now because he’s not at work. He has a uniform, he has camouflage pants. He doesn’t he doesn’t play around,” Dawson said.

On the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Dawson talks more about his military service and the difference between serving Marines and serving civilians. He also talks about his charity work, helping service men and women who are dealing with PTSD.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out her children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”

Florida Foodie is a podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

Candace Campos joined the News 6 weather team in 2015.