Robert and Randi Thraves have taken the "low and slow" barbecue movement in the Hunter by the horns and run with it.
They own Smokin Hot 'n Saucy in Islington, run the annual Smoke in Broke competition and late last year opened Taco Shack at Stockland Green Hills.
Rob grew up on a cattle farm 20 minutes from Singleton and used to work in the mines. Randi was born and raised in the US state of Texas. They share a love of good food and authentic Central Texan flavours and first set up Smokin Hot 'n Saucy in Mudgee, trading at the Mudgee Fine Food Markets.
Randi missed homegrown "Tex Mex" flavours and had identified a gap in the market - a distinct lack of "good food on the go".
"Our product was well received, so we bought a food truck and moved our family back to the Hunter area to be able to reach a larger audience," Randi told Food & Wine.
Smokin Hot 'n Saucy is a labour of love for the busy couple. They live in Broke, have three young children and commute to work. They also run Smoke in Broke on the June long weekend which attracts barbecue competitors and fans from all over Australia.
"The first couple of years with Smokin Hot 'n Saucy were super stressful," Randi said.
"Being able to hire staff to help grow is a reward in business. It's pretty neat when other people share their skills to help you grow this dream. Our staff are like family to us now."
The Thraves' working family has now extended to East Maitland and Taco Shack.
"It's a new product and our challenge is getting people to try tacos filled with smoked meats and fresh salsas," Randi said.
"When we started Smokin Hot 'n Saucy, I remember being at the Mudgee markets and a farmer said 'Brisket, that's either minced or for my dogs ... it's so tough, why would you sell that?' - but then he tasted the meat that had been slow-cooked for hours and it melted in his mouth. He ended up buying a sandwich and telling his friends.
"Currently people don't know us - our tacos are different from what people have at home or even at Taco Bell. But we believe the Tex-Mex style could take tacos up to the next level in the Australian market. Having a taco loaded with delicious smoked meats is much more fulfilling than your typical Old El Paso taco night.
"Having a product that highlights some of the great produce we have available in Australia - and then cooked with passion - sets us apart from other retailers. We just have to get the public to try us instead of another Big Mac."