OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A craft barbecue restaurant is now open in Oceanside with a pitmaster who’s finding the right balance between fire and smoke.

Heritage Barbecue & Beer Co., a sister brand to critically-lauded and Michelin-recognized Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano, is serving smoked meat specialties made with love.

That’s according to their newly appointed pitmaster and barbecue connoisseur Ari Valenzuela. Since joining the team in February, the 32-year old from San Marcos has been working to master the art of fire and smoke.

“Believe it or not people can taste the love and passion behind something,” said Valenzuela while explaining what kind of impact she hopes to have on the barbecue-loving community in San Diego County.

Valenzuela, who’s worked in kitchens since 2015, was hired by pitmaster and Heritage Barbecue & Beer Co. owner Daniel Castillo, who says the first thing that struck him about Valenzuela was her willingness to learn.

Castillo also gave praise to her work ethic. He said, “She’s a workhorse, not afraid to work hard and in less than ideal conditions.”

Valenzuela chiefs three different smokers at the restaurant, smoking a variety of meats like beef briskets and pork shoulder. Her smoked masterpieces are paired with Heritage Barbecue & Beer Co.’s array of house-made sauces.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sauce if it’s going to benefit the protein, but I don’t want it to outshine it or take away from it,” said Valenzuela. “So finding that balance is crucial in my opinion, so when you find that balance it’s a beautiful thing.”

  • Pitmaster and barbecue connoisseur Ari
  • Heritage Barbecue & Beer Co.

When speaking on her inspiration as a female pitmaster, Valenzuela spoke of “the true queen of barbecue” — Tootsie Tomanetz, who many consider an iconic woman in the barbeque world.

“Her work ethic is bar none and she’s so dedicated to the craft and passionate about the result, it’s inspirational for me as a female pitmaster,” Valenzuela explained.

Heritage Barbecue & Beer Co., located at 2002 South Coast Hwy. in Oceanside, is open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. On Friday and Saturday, the joint serves up barbeque and cocktails from noon until 12 a.m.

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s how it is for me — nothing feels like work, it feels like just getting an invaluable education on the craft,” said Valenzuela, Oceanside’s very own pitmaster.