With a love for meeting new people and making them happy through a dining experience Brittany Kobayashi and her partner, Alex George, are bringing Texas barbecue to the midwest via their food truck, Old Gold Barbecue, currently parked at Metazoa.
“It’s been the best of both worlds because I’ve been able to utilize my degree in the arts with our social media and merch!” Brittney said.
We chatted with her to learn more about her career path, the world of barbecue, and their unique concept.
How did you and Alex start Old Gold Barbecue?
Alex and I were living in Austin for seven years and working in the restaurant industry. It had been Alex’s dream to open up his own BBQ place and my dream to own my own business. One of my regulars Dustin Keller and his wife, Erin Keller, were wanting to start a boutique restaurant concept in Indiana to bring a bit of Texas back to his home state.
When he mentioned he thought Texas barbecue would do well in the Midwest, I mentioned Alex was working for the No. 1 Texas barbecue restaurant in the state at the time. Alex was invited over to cook for them and their family and ended with an offer for us to move out to Indianapolis in three months to build our brand as a food trailer and eventually move into a brick and mortar restaurant! Here we are!
Barbecue tends to be perceived as a male-dominated industry, what advice do you have for women that struggle with getting their voices heard in industries where this is the case?
I think it is difficult to be heard in a lot of scenarios, for anyone! I’ve had my fair share of times where my age, my ethnicity, and gender have made it a little more difficult to be taken seriously. I have over a decade of experience in hospitality and lean on that to bring valid ideas, thoughts, and points to the table.
I was forced to learn how to be more confident by reminding myself that I know what I’m doing and to trust myself through opening this business! In the past two years of being open, I’ve seen more growth in myself than I have in my entire life and I feel SO proud of what I’ve been able to achieve. I try to come back to that place any time I feel the struggle. My advice for women struggling to get their voices heard is to trust your gut, do your best to feel confident in yourself, opinions, ideas, beliefs and stand your ground! Your voice is valued and never think otherwise.
Can you tell us about your merch?
Our graphic designer is the extremely talented Drew Lakin. Drew has grown with our business, and when we were struggling in the pandemic, on his own dime, created merch pieces like our enamel pins, and stickers just to help us out!
I think other elements of our merch were more of a, ‘We HAVE to do it!’ We have so many dog regulars, we knew we needed to create pieces for them. Having quality merch gives us a chance to be seen and represented outside of just being at our business, but I’ve always wanted it to be wearable and cool. Fun story: One of our regulars made a trip to Austin recently and was wearing our Old Gold shirt and my best friend immediately texted me saying SOMEONE IS WEARING AN OG SHIRT HERE and struck up a conversation with him. It’s always so great when two worlds collide!
Tell us about food truck life. What are some common misconceptions?
Owning and operating a food truck is not for the faint of heart! It’s essentially like working in a tiny restaurant! It is really nice having everything in one place though and since we cook everything slow and low, we’re able to serve it hot and fast.
I do love dining at food trucks. It was so common in Austin, I’d visit at least one a week there and had my favorite ones! It felt like a good idea to grow our business in this way. In Austin, food trucks have some kind of residency. I knew my favorite trucks would ALWAYS be posted up in the same spot just like a restaurant!
I think in Indy a big misconception is that food trucks always have to be moving around, or exclusively do catering or events. To me, it makes the most sense to stay in one place where people will KNOW you’re at all the time and stay consistent in it. I am hoping that eventually one day we can maybe have a “lil OG” trailer to do more offsite smaller events for people as I do see the demand for it. I’ve also heard people say they wouldn’t go to food trucks under the impression they are dirtier than restaurants and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are held to the same health standards as any restaurant and all of our products are single use items by law (which ended up being super helpful for us during the pandemic).
What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
My favorite thing on the menu is our smoked turkey breast! It is definitely the underdog on our menu, but in terms of what I can eat every day, that is definitely it! Also love our green chile mac n’ cheese as well as our ranchero beans, I “try” these two sides almost daily!
What does your day-to-day look like?
My day-to-day changes often. I think one of the biggest things I’ve had to learn is how to become adaptable. I started this job as simply handling events and marketing, and have moved to more of a general manager. Working service (probably my favorite part as I get to see all the dogs and our regulars!), running social media, working on merch, events, collaborations, prep work, scheduling, etc.
It seems like you have the perfect parking spot at Metazoa—great beer, cool people, even cooler pups. Does this spot feel like a home OGB? What do you appreciate about the neighborhood?
I LOVE having a residency at Metazoa. I always joke about my dream job being a foster mom to a bunch of dogs and surrounded by good food and good people all the time. I am essentially living that dream! I feel like the cool aunt to all the dogs and just spoil them rotten! I probably have over 50 dog names memorized!
I am so proud to be serving a product I believe in and serving it to the best people. I am in tears sometimes because of how many wonderful regulars we have and the relationships I’ve been able to develop through food. It definitely feels like home. The community has welcomed us and accepted us. They don’t need to ask about our lives or who we are, but the fact that our community has not only taken the time to try our food, but also taken the time to get to know us, has just blown me away. Far and away the best clientele and people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in my 13 years of working in restaurants.
As we continue to talk about the importance of self-care as a society, what have you incorporated into your routine to help you decompress from the stress of being in the restaurant industry?
I STILL struggle with self-care and self-love all the time! I recognize it, and for the past year have been actively trying to do things to better myself. I’m an empath and always find myself putting others’ needs before my own. I think something just clicked somewhere on this journey that to show people I care about them, I have to take care of myself first. To destress and replenish, I pick a couple things specifically to do for myself on a weekly and monthly basis. I schedule a massage for myself once a month to give back to my body. I go to a float tank once a month to quiet my mind. I go for a run outside twice a week. If I don’t feel like running, I take a long walk or a hike, something about being in nature re-centers me. If I feel overwhelmed, I reach out to friends or family and talk about it! I try to stick to these things in my routine even when I don’t think I have time for it.
What advice do you have for our readers who also work with their significant others?
Working with my significant other has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do! Alex and I have been together for a wonderful 10 years and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t tested our relationship in ways we’ve never been tested before.
It is a constant work in progress and I think a good piece of advice is to accept that part of it. We’ve been really lucky that through the growth of the business, we’ve also grown together. We give each other strength by being open when one of us is overwhelmed and help to offer solutions for specific issues. We try to keep a clear division of labor, while at times it’s not always possible, we find the divide and conquer method works best for us. It’s totally normal to have disagreements; sometimes small ones and sometimes big ones. I think it’s important to remember that you both are working toward the same goal of making the business the best it can be. Constantly communicating about things and learning when topics get too hot, hitting the pause button and coming back to it has been something really beneficial for us.
As a local AAPI female leader in Indianapolis what has been the most impactful accomplishment of your career thus far and what has been the most challenging?
We’ve had so many challenges and accomplishments it’s hard to pick! I think the most impactful accomplishment for me was being listed in Indianapolis Monthly as Best New Restaurants of 2020 and having multiple pages written about us in IndyStar. I think the most challenging part of my career in this business has been when our partners wanted to give up on Old Gold and in the same vein may actually be my biggest accomplishment when Alex and I turned it around and became the sole owners.
How do you unwind after a day of work?
I always end my shift at the trailer with a 5oz beer shot from Metazoa! Every time we close up, I go in for a nightcap! I’ll go in to pet the pups and chat with the bartenders about how their night went and blast some music on my way home to wrap up my day!
Lenie Tsakonas is a regular Indy Maven contributor.
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