An Amarillo man says that City of Amarillo officials shut down his barbecue making business in what he calls a "sting operation."
Drew Parker, owner of Drew's Q, told the Amarillo Pioneer on Friday that he has spent a couple of years making barbecue for friends, family and fundraisers, but a recent encounter with City officials saw his hobby shutdown.
"I got into barbecuing about two years ago, I got a smoker and I started making it for my family and friends," Parker said. "My friend asked me to make some for his wedding and I made some recently for a lady who unfortunately had cancer. That fundraiser raised $2,100 for her medical costs."
Parker, a nurse and new father, said that he never expected to get into the barbecue business, but at Christmas last year, his wife designed him a logo and business cards and Drew's Q was born.
"Barbecuing is my hobby and I love doing it," Parker said.
However, while Drew's Q was making food for his family and friends, Parker said that he recently received a call that changed everything.
"I got a call one day," Parker said. "He said he was interested in my barbecue for an office party and my Facebook ratings were so good that he decided he didn't want a sample. We made an order for a twelve pound brisket, five pounds of potato salad and extra sauce."
Parker said that he spent all night smoking a brisket before chopping it up and gathering his supplies. He then set out to the meeting place at a gas station in downtown Amarillo.
"I got out of my car and texted him," Parker said. "This car pulls up and the guy introduces himself and is wearing an Environmental Health t-shirt."
Parker says that the two men from the car introduced themselves as Environmental Health officials and used an iPad to take photographs of his car, barbecue, and his driver's license. The officials also told Parker that the food had to be confiscated and burned.
"I told them that my wife was nine-months pregnant and that I could take the food home to freeze it and serve it to my family," Parker said. "They said 'no.'"
Parker says that the City officials told him he could open up a food truck or restaurant, but that he could not sell any more food from home, as the City cannot inspect a backyard.
Additionally, Parker says that a comment made by one of the officials during the incident has stuck with him.
"One of the guys turns and says 'thanks man, it smells really good,'" Parker said. "That just really made me mad."
Parker says that the whole incident cost him about $75 and that he did not receive a citation, but did receive other paperwork from City officials.
The Amarillo Pioneer reached out to the City of Amarillo Environmental Health Department for comment. Our requests for comment were not returned.
According to the City of Amarillo's Environmental Health website (amarillo.gov), food inspections are random and can occur at any time. Documents from the Texas Department of State Health Services show that there are rules for meat and meat-serving establishments that must be adhered to and are enforced by local entities.
In the end, Parker says he hopes that Drew's Q will be back to serve Amarillo again soon and that he is willing to learn to get his barbecue back into the hands of his hungry customers.
"If there is someone who could walk me through the process, that would be great," Parker said.