Jeremy Montoya spent 22 years managing Pizza Hut locations
FARMINGTON — Jeremy Montoya has three loves in his life — the Dallas Cowboys, barbecued ribs and his family.
Now, Montoya is celebrating all three with a new family barbecue business called Silver Star Barbecue.
A few weeks ago, with the help of friends and his wife, Cheri Montoya, and the couple's two sons, Montoya launched the business, which he runs three days a week out of a food truck in the parking lot between Smith's Food and Drug and Schlotzsky's Deli near the corner of 20th Street and Butler Avenue.
After 22 years spent managing area Pizza Hut locations across San Juan County, Montoya got the nerve to strike out on his own after his father gave him a small smoker grill. Soon, he was spending more and more time smoking and barbecuing ribs, brisket and pulled pork, and sharing the spoils with friends and family.
"I've always loved cooking, and when my dad gave me the smoker, I just started smoking stuff," Montoya said. "I just kind of fell in love with smoking meat and barbecue. It's homemade barbecue. It's like always cooking for family."
His newfound passion for all things barbecue soon attracted a wider audience, and the Montoyas decided to cater his "backyard" barbecue at weddings, parties and other gatherings throughout the Four Corners area. Leaving Pizza Hut after more than two decades was a little scary, but ultimately the right choice, he said.
"It was a steady, stable job," he said. "It was very scary to actually do this."
"It still is," his wife added, laughing.
Later, his mother upped the ante and bought him a smoker grill and side-burning box in Midland, Texas. The couple mounted it on a 16-foot trailer. On Wednesdays through Fridays, he said they pull into the parking lot and get the smoker going with a fire using pecan wood from Midland and apple wood from his grandfather's Bloomfield orchard. Mondays and Tuesdays, Montoya has dedicated to occasional catering and smoking meat at home in Kirtland, getting ready to take his mobile restaurant on the road. The couple uses Facebook to announce specials and keep in touch with customers.
Montoya said his barbecue is on the spicy side, using what he calls "the love rub" — a partially secret recipe that includes brown sugar, chiles and Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning — to enhance the flavor of the meat he grills.
The Montoyas' new business would not have been possible without the help of the couple's friends, Jeremy Montoya said.
Family friend and Ladera Del Norte Elementary School teacher Kathalyn Noonan offered to bake from scratch all the potato rolls and sandwich buns for the Montoyas' barbecue dishes.
One of Silver Star's more popular menu items is KJ's brisket taco — a football-size taco loaded with green chile, cheddar cheese and brisket sauce — named after childhood friend Kevin Jaramillo. It was Jaramillo who helped the Montoyas get started by serving as grill master their first week of operations. Montoya said he and Jaramillo used to dream up the Cowboys-themed barbecue-on-wheels business together while watching football games on TV.
Jeremy Brooks came by on Thursday with his wife and kids to try the Montoyas' pulled pork sandwiches and other fare.
"They have already enjoyed the food when I was out of town last week, so now I get my turn," Brooks said. "They love it, so we came by today to get some for me, too."
Montoya said that launching his barbecue business is only possible because of his family and friends, and especially his wife.
"Without Cheri, I wouldn't be able to do any of this," Jeremy Montoya said. "She helps me pull brisket out at 4 a.m., marinate chicken in the early morning — she does so much, anything that needs doing."
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