Hard work pays off for Junior Urias

Junior Urias has carved out a special place among the top stars in the BBQ business, including being crowned champ of Texas-style BBQ in 2014 when he clinched first-place on Destination America network’s reality competition show, “BBQ Pitmasters.”

Up in Smoke BBQ Co., Junior’s family run catering company serving Texas’ Permian Basin and beyond, has been running at full speed, routinely providing complete catering services for up to four jobs per day. 

His success is the result of a lot of hard work put into building the Up in Smoke brand, with products that include his signature Junior’s Rub For Grub for elite and backyard BBQ practitioners, masterclass courses on a wide range of BBQ techniques, and his Original BBQ Sauce.

“For the last 12 years I’ve built a business with minimal help, a lot of effort, and just crazy, crazy hours of trying to get new customers and building the brand, building the business,” the Team B&B member said. “You work your ass off.” 

Now, Junior is again “Out Seasoning the Competition” and blazing new headlines with the recent opening of Up in Smoke, his long-anticipated new restaurant in the increasingly crowded food scene in Midland — featuring Junior’s unique, mouthwatering brand of Texas-style BBQ.

It’s Texas BBQ at its finest. But it hasn’t always been easy. 

“It’s super crazy what it takes to get a restaurant going. A lot of people think it’s just cooking food and BBQ and the love of it. But man, there’s so much more beyond that,” Junior said. “There’s employees, there’s getting the systems laid out, there’s the POS system, there’s a lot of stuff that happens before you get to do what you love, and that’s the cooking.” 

And the proof of that love clearly shows in Junior’s meats: slow-smoked pork ribs, chicken-pepper jack cheese sausages, Southern-style pulled pork, succulent beef ribs and Junior’s own world-famous brisket, to name just a few of Up In Smoke’s tantalizing offerings. At his restaurant Junior uses B&B Competition Char-Logs, which are made naturally from hardwood lump charcoal and help him craft the best barbecue he can serve.

Up In Smoke’s setting and atmosphere is perfect for Texas-sized gatherings of family and friends. A collection of indoor and outdoor picnic tables alongside racks of cooking wood — pecan and mesquite — places diners right in the thick of Junior’s craft.    

Despite Junior’s many successes, whether from competition cook-offs, reality TV or for the world-champion caliber of his rubs and sauces, he notes it hasn’t been easy transitioning into the role of restaurateur.   

“You get to a point where it’s like, ‘Dude, I don’t know if I can do this,” he said. “There’s a mental state you have to go through. But once you get past it and survive that crazy, crazy hill, then you start seeing the value of it and start seeing all this work that’s coming together.” 

Junior said he experienced a range of emotions on opening day. 

“There’s a lot of emotion going through. I had my entire family helping me, which consisted of my wife, my daughter, my son, and my mother-in-law and my uncle, and friends and family. It all came together and when we first opened up we said a prayer and stuff like that. There was a lot of stuff going through my mind: Do I got enough food, is my food perfect and the way I want it for my customers? I want to make a good first impression,” he reflects. “Once you’re done, you sit back, take a deep breath and say, ‘Wow, you just did that.’”

Up In Smoke BBQ is located at 1101 Washita court, Midland, Texas, and is now open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone: 432-697-1582. 

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