Monday, June 17, 2024

Long Beach BBQ Festival: Full Send BBQ is a veteran’s salute to his Filipino family and heritage

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As the second annual Long Beach BBQ Festival approaches its day of taking over Shoreline Aquatic Park on May 25, Longbeachize and Brian Addison have partnered with the festival to highlight some the local talent being featured at the festival. Today, we feature Full Send BBQ, a veteran-owned barbecue popup that is flush with love, uplifting our country in a time when few do, and honoring Filipino heritage.

Full Send BBQ is the story of a veteran who simultaneously defines himself by his service but also wants to be his own man

For pitmaster and Army veteran Dominic “Dom” Cagliero of Full Send BBQ, like many veterans, his service is inherently connected to his life: It has showcased some brutal facts about life—he was an infantryman initially so faced combat up close—as well as some gorgeous truths—there is a deep sense of camaraderie and trust built between the men and women who serve in a world where those very things can often be rare in many corners of civilian life.

“Focusing on my own thing has provided such a different sense of autonomy—but it also feels like I’m beginning to slowly lose something by not serving anymore,” Dom said. “The military is all I’ve ever known and I would be outright lying if I told you that the thought of not having that doesn’t make me anxious. But it’s about translating the best parts of the military into my every day behavior; use what I’ve learned to apply it to my future.”

Dom’s application of military ideals is one that is both admirable and inspiration: Noting that the “when you’re serving, there is not really time to do nothing; you’re always doing something and you’re taught to never get too comfortable,” Dom discusses that this very behavior could be the reason many of his veteran brothers and sisters cannot find a stable connection with civilian comfortability. He, however, has decided to invert that very ideal and apply it to his family: With his wife Marlena and a daughter in tow, he refuses to take comfort in wresting on his laurels, in not honing his craft, in not being a better human.

“The whole world of military verbiage is one that is dear to every veteran,” Dom said. “And ‘send it’ just basically means go ahead and do it—so saying ‘full send’ means to go and do without a single ounce of effort wasted. And I just applied it to myself: After a 24-hour shift serving I would go straight to Restaurant Depot just to stay up another 24 hours to perfect my cooking and smoking skills. I know it sounds a bit simple but I absolutely love what I do.”

That last part is extremely important in the context of Dom’s service: Not every veteran has the privilege of saying they love what they do after they formally sign off from duty. As many will tell you, finding a post-service purpose following not just intense training and structure but profoundly intense bonding with their fellow service members can sometimes prove impossible—and it results in constant return to touring.

Dom is not immune; as he said, he is mixed with fascination at his post-Army life and anxiety at being disconnected from the military. But it is that very fire—the one which prompted him to serve our country diligently and the one that inspires him to be the best husband and father possible—that could possibly explain why the smoke it creates turns out so damn delicious.

Full Send BBQ is as much Filipino as it is American, coming in with the wave of Asian-Americans who are proud to meld their cultures

Full Send BBQ is far away from its first popup in April of 2021 at Asylum Brewing in Anaheim—or what he called “a struggle and a juggle at times.” But what really began to put him apart from the growing barbecue renaissance happening across the state is his Filipino family, culture, and cuisine—and reinterpreting those very dishes into something that defined Full Send BBQ.

From steaming bowls of sinigang—the succulently sour’n’salty soup where tamarind meets fish sauce—that eschew the traditional pork in favor of smoked brisket to kare kare-gone-camping, where the traditional peanut based stew is made with smoked and oxtails, Full Send is as Filipino as it is American.

Like Chef Chad Phuong of Battambong BBQ, whose Cambodian culture acts as a guiding backbone to his interpretation of Texan barbecue, Full Send BBQ is a reflection of a larger conversation in not just barbecue but Asian-American food as a whole: Asian-Americans grew up in that in-between, liminal space that most of their non-Asian friends didn’t get when it came to food—and instead of trying to hide it or “tone down” their flavors to accommodate bland tastes, they are proudly owning it while incorporating it into the American food lexicon.

And the result is both beautiful and pretty damn tasty.

“When I fell in love with barbecue—I mean, I went from these kinda awful home sets to literally driving to Texas to have someone build me a smoker, that’s the one I have now… I fell hard—and I just couldn’t ignore the impulse to combine it with the food I grew up on,” Dom said. “Full Send BBQ is full-on fusion and I have zero apologies or regrets in saying that.”

So what is the Long Beach BBQ Festival?

In its second year and headed by husband-and-wife team Qiana and Ian Mafnas of Axiom Kitchen, the Long Beach BBQ Festival is a celebration of SoCal’s growing barbecue renaissance. And its lineup of barbecue and food vendors is wildly cool:

  • Axiom Kitchen
  • Big Brian’s Meats
  • Brother’s Keeper BBQ 
  • El Guero y La Flaca
  • Full Send BBQ
  • Good Smoke Better Eats
  • High Roller BBQ 
  • OSO Good BBQ
  • Good Smoke Better Eats
  • Fat Boys BBQ LA
  • Good Smoke Better Eats
  • Fat Boys BBQ
  • Janer Family BBQ
  • Smoked n’ Blazed BBQ
  • Smoked and Salted BBQ
  • Magilla’s BBQ
  • Just Wright BBQ
  • Robert Earl’s BBQ
  • Midway City BBQ
  • Rib Bones BBQ
  • PS Smoked Meats
  • Mussels and Pearls
  • Chaudown Kitchen
  • Chef T “The Rising Phoenix”
  • Smokestack Lightnin BBQ
  • Watson’s Pizza

And, of course, there will be live music, with the lineup including:

  • Indica Roots 
  • Makenna
  • Phoenyx & Co.
  • Gil T
  • Dead Ringer
  • Ms. B Royal

The second annual Long Beach BBQ Festival takes place at Shoreline Aquatic Park, located at 200 Aquarium Way, on Saturday, May 25, from noon to 9PM. For tickets, click here.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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