After the floods in Houston and Baton Rouge four years ago, Gary Dugan wanted to find a way to help out those affected the best way he could — with food.
Dugan has been cooking barbecue professionally since 2014 running barbecue trailer rentals, as well as catering for anyone in and out of New Iberia and statewide.
Dugan has seen it all and cooked it all, even cooking with members of the TV show “BBQ Pitmasters” in San Antonio, Texas.
One of Dugan’s biggest passions is cooking for others and surprising them, especially after hurricanes and storms, or the 2016 flood in Baton Rouge.
“When they flooded, I was right down there,” Dugan said. “Right after (Hurricane) Katrina and even Hurricane Harvey, I went to Texas and cooked for 10 days on the road.”
Dugan, 55, a New Iberia native and resident, started the “Louisiana Cajun Pitmasters,” a local group of people who all share a love for barbecuing. According to Dugan, anyone can be a Louisiana Cajun Pitmasters.
A pitmaster, according to Dugan, is like a top chef in New Orleans. They are self-taught cooks over the years.
“A pitmaster is at the top,” Dugan said. “It’s like all these chefs that go to school, a pitmaster didn’t have to. We are the best cooks there are.”
Who can be in the group?
“Anyone that likes to barbecue that would like to be part of the team,” Dugan said.
Find the Louisiana Cajun Pitmasters Facebook group at www.facebook.com/Louisiana-Cajun-Pitmasters.
But cooking isn’t just about smoked meat for Dugan, who also has a passion for cooking other traditional foods like gumbo, cracklins, boiling shrimps, crawfish and even crabs.
At the end of the day, however, Dugan always finds himself back in front of the barbecue pit.
“My favorite thing is barbecue,” he said.
Dugan’s favorite protein to cook is ribs, and he enjoys the whole process, from marinating for three days to throwing the slabs on the pit, to the long, slow process that ends with fall-off-the-bone ribs.
Dugan’s love for cooking came at an early age, and started as a family affair.
In 1971, Dugan’s brother, George, built a barbecue pit for their father and the pitmaster has been cooking with it since then.
“I still have that pit, but I’ve cooked on it since 1971,” Dugan said. “And to this day, I still cook on it. It’s been in the family for a long time, and I don’t plan on getting rid of it.”
Dugan looked forward to the end of the week so he and his brother could experiment with different recipes on their father’s barbecue pit.
“It was like every Friday, we looked forward to cooking,” Dugan said.
Dugan enjoys cooking for others in the public for free, from pool parties to receptions and weddings, giving back to others is something he always finds himself doing.
“Sometimes I hook my trailer up and go to the city park and cook two cases of chicken and just give it away,” Dugan said. “It’s just something to do. I love to feed people.”
Dugan credits Vern Mitchell from Vern’s Bar-B-Que & Catering as an inspiration to giving back to others.
Like Dugan, Mitchell cooked for flood victims in 2016 in Baton Rouge and other affected regions.
“He told me it’s something he likes doing,” Dugan said. “He does cater to people in need.”
After a conversation with his wife, Dugan looked at the areas and the people who were hit the worst because he wanted to help out, too.
Though the roads were underwater, Dugan was able to find his way from Lake Carles to Texas.
After looking at the damage, Dugan couldn’t believe what he saw and how much everyone was in need.
Dugan, with the help of local police departments, saw around 2,000 people staying at local churches, and he knew it was his chance to provide hamburgers and hot dogs to them. Cooking over a 10-day period, he made 16,000 hot dogs and hamburgers.
“I started thinking, ‘I am going to come out here and feed all these people,” Dugan said. “I know I can. I told people I wanted to help.”