Howdy Folks, I’m Chef Waseem Hilal!

Howdy folks, I’m Chef Waseem Hilal! I was born into the world of Texas BBQ as my father had a couple of BBQ restaurants as I was growing up. I have fond memories of running around the restaurant causing chaos. I’ve been told I was once an annoyance during the lunch rush, so they put me in an empty 5 gallon bucket of pickles so I couldn’t run around. My very first memory of cooking was at the restaurant. I was trying to flip my eggs in the air and catch them in the skillet the way I had seen my dad do it many times. Things didn’t go as planned, a majority of the eggs splattered all over the stove. To this day, I still have dreams of my dad’s restaurant. My sister and I spent many Saturdays at the restaurant. I remember “helping” make buttermilk biscuits from scratch. We would always play around with the dough and try to make pretzels or add some m&m candies to make a dessert of sorts. I had no idea that this was in a way shaping my future, as I never thought about being involved in the food industry while growing up.

My father’s first restaurant was Charlie’s BBQ located in 5 Greenway Plaza. It was open from 1982 until 2005. I would help around here and there learning new things as I went. My favorite thing to do was running the cash register. I did so for a couple of Summers in between school. Lunch rush was an awesome experience! My dad ended up having to close the business after the property manager hired a new guy who ended up having several other businesses shut down around the same time. That person was let go by the property manager shortly after, but the damage was already done. My dad spent about one year in “retirement” before he got bored and wanted to get back into BBQ.

He partnered up with Hungry Farmers BBQ that was located at 8222 Airline Dr, on the northside of Houston. I helped my dad at this location after I finished high school as it was far from our house. It was a classic bbq joint that was established around 1975, originally Sam’s BBQ. I was told that at one point they grew some produce out back for the restaurant. I went to culinary school at Houston Community College to learn and hone my skills. My passion ignited like a wildfire and I dove deeper into the food world. I tried running a few specials here and there but nothing really took off as people already knew what they wanted coming into the place. I kept bumping heads with my dad and wasn’t able to make changes to better the place for the future. We just couldn’t see eye to eye no matter how hard I tried, so I decided to leave.

I spent some time at Max’s Wine Dive on Washington Ave. I really enjoyed this gig as it was an open kitchen so we got to see people enjoy the food we just cooked. I moved on to help open On the Kirb on Kirby with kitchen setup and creating a menu. I wish I was able to continue my journey here, but stress got to me and I folded before opening day. Shortly after that I joined the Hotel Granduca, a five star Italian hotel in the Galleria area. I got to train under 3 Michelin star Chef Enrico Glaudo. I loved this kitchen and tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could because it’s not everyday one has an opportunity as such. Upper scale and fine dining was fun for me but it sure can be daunting.

In May 2017, Hungry Farmers BBQ on Airline was involved in an arson/robbery, it burned down to the ground. It was hard to see it happen and watch my father go through that hardship. It took a few days to hit me and I became depressed as I felt like a part of me had burned even though I was no longer associated with the location. It took me a little time to bounce back from that situation.

My next role was Sous Chef at Tobiuo Sushi located in La Centerra. I was in charge of the hot foods such as steak, cooked seafood dishes and such, as I didn’t have any sushi experience. We had a yakitori grill which we would use for yakitori skewers (basically Japanese kabobs). Everyday I would light up natural lump charcoal and add a few chunks of wood to it. I just happened to buy hickory wood for it and the smell would take me back to my childhood. My mind would replay memories of my BBQ past. That’s when my itch to return to the BBQ world started.

I was doing my homework on starting a food truck or finding a running restaurant for sale. I visited with a few food truck builders and got some ideas. Being a big guy, I knew I wouldn’t last hot Summers in a truck. So I was really hoping to find an established restaurant. Why not build from scratch? The cost is very high in comparison to buying someone out. I must have toured about five or six bbq restaurants that were for sale before coming across Chuckwagon BBQ & Burgers. It took me two years to find somewhere I felt comfortable in growing my future.This is my first restaurant personally, my folks are working alongside with me to accomplish my dreams. My father and I combined have about 50 years of BBQ experience.

I hope to get the pleasure to meet and serve y’all! Thank you and God Bless!