San Antonio, Texas – It’s responsible for the smoky scent that greets people in downtown San Antonio each morning.
The century-old building near the corner of South Santa Rosa Street and Cesar Chavez is what’s known as the commissary for Bill Miller Barbecue.
Inside this facility, crews work all night long preparing for the daytime rush, smoking meats and stirring up sauces and soups for all of their restaurants in San Antonio, Austin and Corpus Christi.
“It's fast-paced so everything has to be done. We have a deadline to meet,” said Noel Almaguer, one of many employees who have worked for the company for decades. “If we're late, the stores are late. I mean, it's just a domino effect.”
Almaguer and the other overnight employees have to make sure all the food is ready to go by 6 a.m., the time the first trucks begin to head out to the restaurants.
Although he has worked other shifts during his 47 years with the company, Almaguer says he likes the pace of the graveyard shift most.
“The job it's, before you know it, you're done for the day. And coming in early, you get to leave early,” he said.
The time may pass quickly for him and his co-workers, but it almost seems to stand still when it comes to how long it takes for the famous meats to cook.
Brisket spends anywhere from 15 to 18 hours in the smokers, and the company cooks about 18,000 pounds of it per day.
“That brisket that's coming out right now was put on yesterday morning, about 9 or 10 o-clock in the morning,” said Lupe San Miguel, the commissary manager. “Everyone, all shifts take care of the brisket.”
They also have to cook about 7,500 link sausages and 2,100 chickens each day, not to mention the many gallons of pico de gallo and vegetable soup that are made in the kitchen.
Even the bread and pies served in the restaurants are baked fresh daily at the downtown facility.
While that kind of workload might weigh down the most dedicated worker, San Miguel says his overnight crews take it all in stride.
“Everybody, when they come in, they're sharp. They're happy to be here. They're willing,” he said.
Their goal, though, is to make their customers happy.