MEET BIG AL
The Man Behind the Grill
What began as a fundraiser for a local church’s youth ministry, ultimately lead to a full-time career. In 2008, Al and his wife Bobbie were already self-employed. Al being a full-time painter, and Bobbie was a child daycare provider. As busy as they were, they volunteered to be the youth ministers for their home parish where their four children were heavily involved. To help fund the ministry and its activities, they began selling food at different events around the island. They sold skewers: pork, chicken, and shrimp with vegetables, and teriyaki marinated steak and chicken. The barbeque proved to be a successful fundraiser for the ministry: Al and Bobbie were able to raise enough funds to bring over a dozen youth to yearly retreats and youth camps throughout Hawaii, the annual youth congress in Anaheim, California, and World Youth Day in Spain. The Ministry also hosted multiple seasonal events and productions for the extended church community.
In 2014, after suffering from a back injury while painting, Al retired from painting after 25 years in the business. Figuring out what to do next came easy for him. He remembered various food trucks he saw on the North Shore of O`ahu while painting a house on location. He was inspired to start his own food truck business. So, Al and Bobbie bought an old, used food trailer from someone who retired from the business and AL’S BBQ PIT was born. By that time, Al and Bobbie had perfected their house teriyaki sauce that quickly became popular among the Maui locals, and they already built up a loyal base of clientele throughout the years of fundraising. They operated daily near the Kahului Harbor and numerous public venues and events, and saved up enough money to break down the trailer and remodel it from top to bottom. In 2016, Al and Bobbie stepped down from being the youth ministers, closed down the daycare, and went full-time at the food trailer.
While business was doing fairly well, Al and Bobbie knew they wanted to expand. Al thought the business would do better if it was operating off the highway near Paia, a quaint little town on the North Shore of Maui, home to many locals and attracts tourists alike. His reasoning: they would be closer to the airport, on the side of major road that many locals and tourists commute daily, and near many construction sites.
The Stable Road location validated Al’s logic. The location has allowed Al and Bobbie to cater to the locals living in the nearby communities of Sprecklesville, Paia and Haiku; patrons going to/coming from the neighboring beaches and occasionally, some of the customers from Kahului will make the trek to Stable Rd for their lunch break. With Kahului Airport just down the road, many visitors hungry after a long flight, end up at Al’s because of the five star Yelp reviews. Many of them return several times throughout their stay in Maui.
In fact, the tourist were the ones who told Al and Bobbie to look into the different state and county fairs on the mainland because they believed the business would do well among the typical fair food. Al and Bobbie took the leap of faith and invested in another food trailer based in Sacramento, California. Summer 2017 was the beginning of Al’s BBQ Pit journey outside of Hawaii. They participated in the California State Fair, Yolo County Fair, Sacramento County Fair, and Tulare County Fair. They also took part in the Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival in Seattle, Washington, and Chehalis Garlic Festival also in Washington. Through their journey on the road, they got discovered to be a part of a national TV show called Carnival Kings.
Long gone are the barbeque skewers, but to date, the menu has grown to a diverse spread of local Hawaiian cuisine. The most popular items are the teriyaki marinated steak and chicken drizzled with their secret house teriyaki sauce. Locals and visitors cannot get enough of it. They also moved to their current location at the Kulamalu Town Center food truck pod, and most recently expanded to the Kahului Food Pod across from Costco, next to Courtyard Marriott.
Al and Bobbie have served people from all walks of life, hailing from different parts of the country, even abroad. Whether they are serving the Maui locals, or presenting Hawaiian barbeque at a mainland event, one thing remains true: each plate of food is served with the Aloha Spirit, a quintessential aspect common among Hawaii’s melting pot of cultures. At AL’S BBQ PIT, the mind, body and soul are nourished through their plates of Aloha.