Simply put “The Boss” as they call her around here at Heim BBQ in Fort Worth, Texas. At 30 years young, Emma Heim is running the show with grace and a smile along with her co-owner husband and Pitmaster Travis Heim.
Read along and get to know a little bit more about Emma Heim and how she makes it all happen.
Heim Barbecue (Fort Worth, Texas)
Tell me a little bit about where you are from and where you grew up? Originally, I’m from Pasadena, California. My family moved to the DFW area when I was 5 years old. So I have really only known Texas to be my home. I don’t always tell people that, since I’m so Texas Barbecue-y now. Thank God I did move here, or I wouldn’t have ever met Travis. #TexasForever
What did your parents do? What influence did they have on you in becoming the woman you are today?
My parents own and operate a commercial cleaning company called Miner & Sons. They started the business when I was in elementary school, out of necessity and for the good of our family. From a very young age I have seen the struggles and the joys of owning a small business. My parents are the hardest working people that I have ever known. It wasn’t until recently that my husband pointed out how much alike my Dad I am when it comes to work ethic. My mom handles all the business side of things, the books, payroll, the fun stuff. I don’t know where we would be without her helping me in the very beginning with the food truck books. She walked me through every step. I will forever be grateful to her for that. They have maintained their company for over 25 years, and I hope to be just like them one day.
What were you like as a child? What did you want to be when you grew up? I wouldn’t say I was a super independent child while growing up, but I found my own two feet eventually. I loved to learn and enjoyed sports. I took dance lessons all through elementary school and into high school. My dream job was to be a dance teacher.
Tell me about the business of barbecue. What do you think people might not know about the day in the life of Emma Heim and your role in the family business? I have been the general manager of our first shop Heim Magnolia now for almost 2 years. I’m on the front lines every day. I am with my FOH staff daily, working alongside them. I handle the ordering for the kitchen, and FOH needs. I schedule, I hire, I fire, I encourage, I discipline, and I counsel. I am at my heart of hearts a worker, I love to be in the mix of a busy restaurant. Creating solutions to problems is my favorite thing. I guess you can say I do a little bit of everything. I’ll even cut brisket if I need to. Most importantly, I am my husband’s right hand.
How did you meet your husband? Fun fact we might not know about your relationship? I met Travis through our church youth group. He was in the 7th grade and I was in the 8th. I still remember the first time I saw him. We were at a swim party. I remember he had crazy hair that stuck out on the sides, and tiny glasses. I kept my eye on him the rest of the night.
What is the best thing about being in the Barbecue business? Best thing, hands down, are the people. Guests from all over the world come to the restaurant, and it’s so great to meet them. They all tell me where they have traveled from, how they heard about us, why they wanted to come to our place, and that they have to try the Bacon Burnt Ends. Those faces coming through the door at 11am every morning makes me so thankful. If it wasn’t for guests showing up, we couldn’t do what we love. To top it off, all the people that come through the door are from different backgrounds, religions, genders, race, financial status, but they come to Heim because they feel welcome. Gives me all the feels. BBQ brings everyone together.
What is the worst thing about being in the Barbecue business? Restaurants in general are no joke, but then you take it to another level when you have a BBQ restaurant, we literally have someone(s) working at our shop around the clock. We are only closed one day a week and we serve lunch and dinner. We are smoking though the late hours of the night, and we are cooking in the early hours of the morning. It’s exhausting sometimes, but I think the hardest part would be finding good help, especially good managers you can lean on. When you find them, you never want to let them go. When a manager or even an hourly staff member sees your vision, it is the best thing that can ever happen to you as an owner. When you find someone that can run with your vision, shares your values, and sees your company as their own, there is nothing sweeter.
How do you maintain your sanity with being a busy restauranteur? The restaurant business can be one of the most exhausting businesses to be in...Any advice you can give other busy entrepreneurs trying to make it all happen every day? I try to find joy in the little things. There’re days that I don’t have a chance to leave the restaurant or the office, but the little things keep me going. A great cup of coffee with just the right amount of creamer, a good playlist, heck getting a pedicure and having a glass of wine…alone. It’s extremely easy to get bogged down with restaurant life, but anytime we’re able to have a date night, hang with good friends, watch a movie on Netflix, cook dinner at home together, we take advantage. We’re always unsure when the next time will be where we can do those things, so it’s super special to me when we get to.
What do you do for fun? Hang out with my husband and not talk about business. Have a margarita on a patio. Sleep in.
If you were going to give one piece of advice to a young person who wanted to get into the business of barbecue or just "food" in general, what would that be? Make sure the passion is real. It may seem fun or cool to have your own restaurant or food truck, but there are days where you wake up and sit on the side of the bed wondering how it’s all going to work out, and how on earth could you be driving back to the restaurant at 8am when it feels like you just left. Or a staff member calls in sick, so it looks like you’re bussing tables for the lunch shift. But you already know it’s all going to be okay, because you love what you do. If you don’t love it and aren’t willing to put 110% of yourself into the business, just don’t do it. It’s by far the hardest thing I have ever done. If you don’t have a passion or a love for what you do, I promise it will just make the daily grind that much harder.
What's next for Emma Heim? If you could do something outside of the barbecue business, what would that be? I’d love to start a little shop. Clothing, jewelry, home goods. We’ll see, I think that’s awhile down the road, something that is on my radar for sure.
When you actually get the chance...what do you do with girlfriends on a "Night Out" on the town? My girlfriends started a girls group called “Drunk Betty & Martha Dinner Club” We take turns hosting. We all bring bottles of wine of our choice, and just hang out and eat good food. It’s so fun and the pressure to perform isn’t there. It’s one of my favorite nights.
When you have guests in town are there any local restaurants, shops, or favorite attractions you like to direct them to? Travis and I are the biggest fans of Joe T. Garcias in the Northside of Fort Worth. Best Margaritas in town. We are 100% going there if friends or family are in town, or if we actually get a night to ourselves
If you were to empty out your purse on the table right now, what would we find? Sets of keys, gum, Chap Stick, business cards, baller Gucci sunglasses, and my wallet. Side note- once before I was able to quit my 9-5 job and we were in the food truck, I reached in my handbag and pulled out one of Trav’s temp gauges. I quietly laughed in my cubical. It was about time I quit that job anyways.
Is there a local or national charitable cause that you support and would like more people to be aware of? Dream Park. A soon to be built playground in the heart of Fort Worth that is for children of all abilities. We’ve been able to watch fundraising for this project over the years, and we are excited to see it soon come to life!
Travis and I have also sponsored a child named Tienihama from Burkina Faso, Africa through Compassion International. We have sponsored him for several years now.
We end each interview with a piece we can share from your kitchen to the reader’s home kitchen. Think of it as sharing a recipe card from one good friend to another. What is a favorite recipe you like to share from your home kitchen when you are entertaining with friends and family?
My favorite dish to share/eat would be grilled or steamed artichokes. This is a dish I remember as a child being one of my all-time favorites, being the California kid that I am, I immediately fell in love.
Steamed Artichokes ala Emma Heim
Ingredients: (1) large whole artichoke
Directions: Take a large artichoke (my mom always told me that if you squeeze the artichoke gently, and you hear a little squinchy- rubbery noise that meant that it was a good one. Don’t know if that’s actually true, but I do that every time I pick up an artichoke at the market to this day.) With a large sharp knife, cut the steam and the top of the artichoke off. Then with scissors, cut off all the thorns. Run under water for several seconds to allow a thorough cleaning.
Bring water to a boil and place the artichoke in a steamer and let the magic happen. The steaming process can take up to 40 minutes. Once the artichoke is done, you will be able to pull off the leaves easily, and without much effort. At this point, enjoy, or you can take it to the next level and finish the it off on the grill for a few minutes. To eat an artichoke, gently pull off each leaf. Use your choice of dipping sauce: butter, mayo, lemon aioli, or no sauce is needed. After dipping, on the fattier side of the leaf place your teeth and pull off the “meat”. Discard of the rest of the leaf. Once you get through all the leaves, you get to the heart. Scrap off the feathery thorns, cut into pieces and eat. This is the money bite, the part you’ve waited for. Super simple, but the most divine taste in all the world.
Thank you Emma for taking the time to let us get to know a little more about you and journey in Texas BBQ. Next time you are in Fort Worth, Texas go by and say “hey” to Emma & Travis Heim at Heim Barbecue. They will be opening their 2nd location in the River District of Fort Worth this year early Spring, So now you’ll have chance to see them times two! #SupportGoodPeople
P.S. If you know a “Barbecue Wife” we should feature, send a message at firstname.lastname@example.org We’d love to hear from you!