ORLANDO, Florida. Joel Dawson, owner of Brothers-N-Arms BBQ, has cooked in the most extreme situations imaginable.
“I was in Afghanistan — I was on the border with Pakistan,” Dawson said. “We are in the dining room and … an RPG exploded, shaking the entire building. It was so strong that it blew out all the windows.”
Dawson served as a cook in the Marine Corps for 15 years before retiring. He joined them in 2001, and during his service, Dawson was sent to the army four times.
“The Marine Corps showed us how to produce large quantities of high quality food,” Dawson said. “And since then, when I was 15 years old in the Marine Corps, I was in charge of the dining room. I’ve been to Afghanistan a couple of times and I’ve been handing out food to the fighters – guys go to the front lines and they have the guts to kick down doors, take names, and when they come back successfully, they can go back to great food.”
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Shortly before his retirement, Dawson began learning the barbecue business from his father.
“My father had a barbecue stand and worked for my cousin. So I talked to him about it: “I want to do it too.” I told my friends that I want to make a food truck and he taught me exactly how to drive a food truck, how to cook it, how to season it and how to do it.”
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Dawson founded Brothers-N-Arms in 2017. He was immediately able to apply his military experience to his business.
“All the architecture designed for the Marine Corps, I took from the order – because I was with the order. If they tell me that I have 200 people at my wedding, I know how many to order,” he said. “When we are told: “This is how much we need to feed,” we go into the field. You never want to be low.”
Dawson has built his business over the past six years and is now partnering with other businesses.
“Our base is in Sanford, Florida at Rockin’ Rhonda’s Neighborhood Bar,” he said. “You can find us there every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We will be there unless we have a special event that we will be at, but right now we have opened our backyard kitchen. That way, if the food truck runs over, we’ll still have a BBQ on site.”
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Dawson has done it all while raising five children ranging in age from 22 to the youngest, who is only 1 year old. Dawson said his 4-year-old really fell in love with his father’s work.
“He is really passionate about what I do. He is angry now because he is not at work. He has a uniform, he has camouflage pants. He doesn’t play,” Dawson said.
In the latest issue of Florida Foodie, Dawson talks more about his military service and the difference between serving the Marines and serving civilians. He also talks about his philanthropic work helping men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
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