Friends’ barbecue business takes off

Five months ago, Junior Hernandez and his friend Rory Couch were unemployed after having been laid off from their jobs.
After figuring out what to do next, the two decided to open up a food truck stand and thus Fat Head Meats was born.
Located on 1551 John Ben Shepperd Parkway, the local barbecue business has since gradually taken off and the two longtime Permian Basin residents are happy about the way things have gone since opening up.
Both Hernandez and Couch had plenty of experience cooking in their lives, which made the decision to open up a food truck business easier.
“I’ve been cooking for 20 years and my buddy Rory has been barbecuing for as long as I can remember,” Hernandez said. “I got laid off and owning a food truck, it’s one of those things where it takes a partner. If you try and do it by yourself, you might forget to do something. I knew that I was going to need some help.”
It wasn’t long before Hernandez (who lives in Midland) was driving to his mom’s house in Odessa. But on the way, fate would play a part and he soon found himself at his friend’s house.
“Something told me to turn around and go to Rory’s house,” Hernandez said. “Next thing you know, I went there and we got to talking and he wanted to do the same thing. From there it happened.”
It took off but business was a little slow at first as the next day, Hernandez said he and Couch were making about $13 on the first day.
“We just stuck with it,” Hernandez said. “We didn’t give up. Things turned around. We moved to a new location. From there, people started noticing us. With that blessing, a lot of our friends started to come and see us.”
They’ve been able to make ends meet and so far, Fat Head Meats, employs five people and has given back to the community since its opening.
“We got so blessed that we had to help the community,” Hernandez said. “We started doing what we can. We’re laying the foundation. We’re doing as much as we can but we’re laying the foundation with what we can do.”
Business has been good enough for them to keep going as customers have come for their burgers, sandwiches and party platters.
“People love our burgers,” Hernandez said. “People love our brisket and they love our ribs. As far as the sides go, our cheesy potatoes and our smoked mac and cheese. That’s what people love so much. Our brisket is fantastic. It’s 18-hour smoked brisket. We have our own sauce and people seem to love it.”
Like Hernandez, Couch is no stranger to the area, playing his high school football at Permian and making all-state during his senior year in 1995 as the Panthers advanced to the state championship game that season.
For Couch, working with his longtime friend has helped things go smoothly.
“Junior and I have been friends since we were kids,” Couch said. “I went off to play ball in college and I already knew what he was about and that he had been cooking for a long time.”
That partnership has helped them through the tough stretches that came in the first months of the business this year.
“We started off and soon started making about $78,” Hernandez said. “Some days I didn’t want to do it and some days he didn’t want to do it but we stuck with it and supported each other. That’s the great thing about having a partner. We ended up growing. Catering has helped us out. Friends and families have helped us out.”
As far as helping out with the community, Hernandez says that’s been a serious matter, saying that they don’t hesitate to try and help someone in need if they can.
They set up a give back day where a percentage of sales can contribute to an organization or someone in need.
“That’s what keeps us going,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes it’s not about the money. Our resumes are good. We know a bunch of people in the community. I know food. I’ve been cooking for a long time. It’s pretty good. Helping the community is what keeps us going. That’s what we’re doing. We don’t want to do anything else.”
Couch has been happy to help give back to the community.
“When I played at Permian in the ‘90s, the town always gathered around and helped each other out,” Couch said. “Times have changed since then but people have helped me through my life. Hard work pays off and people notice that. To be able to do that and have my best friend and family help me out is great. It’s been a rough year for me but I’m still happy. We’re working and earning it. It feels good. We’re proud. We just want everyone to smile. We’re just trying to help people out.”