****Happy new year from stalwart crafts ****

Interview with Big Paul on the Grill

This month we had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Jimenez, also known on Instagram as “Big Paul on the Grill.” Paul is a dedicated father and skilled BBQ influencer who found his passion for grilling after the tragic loss of his son. 

In this interview, we learn how Paul became the grilling influencer he is today and get to learn about the amazing PaulieStrong Foundation he created, which has contributed to over two million dollars for much needed research for a rare case of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. 

Stalwart Crafts is proud to have partnered with Paul and are excited to share his story below. 

SC: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a BBQ influencer, and how did you develop your passion for grilling? 

PJ: My passion for grilling began out of tragedy. We lost our son Paul to a rare and aggressive childhood cancer in January of 2016, At only 10 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma in October of 2015 and lost his battle only 2.5 months later.  

Several months before his diagnosis, Paul picked out a Big Green Egg grill for me for Father’s Day. Following his passing, I found it therapeutic to be outside in front of the live fire cooking nearly every night. It somehow helped me to feel closer to him. I was usually joined at the grill by my then 5-year-old daughter Juliette and together we built a passion for cooking on the grill.  We shared that passion via social media as @bigpaulonthegrill and @littlejulesonthegrill. It got the attention of Big Green Egg and they eventually invited me to tour their HQ and join their influencer team. Other companies soon followed, and we have formed several strong partnerships with companies whose products we love using and who support The PaulieStrong Foundation, a nonprofit we started in Paul’s memory. 

SC: Please tell us about The PaulieStrong Foundation and how it supports the fight against childhood cancer?

PJ: The PaulieStrong Foundation is a partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. We fund much-needed research which MSK shares with the top cancer hospitals in the world. 

Our current research includes using mice avatars where we clone every tumor that comes into MSK and use the mouse avatars to try various combinations of treatments. We have seen some incredible breakthroughs so far and are already changing the treatment protocols for children who are diagnosed with sarcoma-type cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States; nearly 16,000 children are diagnosed each year. But despite those staggering stats, only four percent of all cancer research funding goes toward childhood cancers. Foundations Like PaulieStrong help to offset that gap in funding and change the fates of kids who will be diagnosed.

SC: How do you incorporate your love for grilling into your philanthropic efforts, and how can others get involved in supporting your cause?

PJ: BBQ / Cooking became a passion of mine as well as a form of therapy. The community that I have become a part of, in large part because of social media, have all been so supportive of our mission. We do charity cooking events around the county, and we have established many partners who support us with donations, items for our fundraisers and helping to create much needed awareness for our cause. I have had quite a few tears roll down my cheeks when I’ve scrolled through social media and see people wearing #PaulieStrong t-shirts. We are helping to create an army of supporters and together we are going to change the world for future generations.

SC: What is your favorite BBQ recipe, and can you share any tips for making it perfectly?

PJ: I have too many favorites to pick just one. My favorite thing is sharing a meal with other people and seeing the joy on their faces. Whether it’s friends, family or strangers at a cooking event, there is nothing better than sharing something you created with others and seeing them appreciate all the effort that went into it.

SC: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to get into grilling, and what are some essential tools or techniques they should learn?

PJ: The best advice I could give is to just get started and experiment with things you like. There are tons of cookbooks, youtube videos and social media accounts to help provide the direction and inspiration.  Experimenting is the fun part. Sometimes it will be amazing and other times you will learn something that will help you be better the next time. Just have fun with it.  My family has eaten a lot of bad meals over the years as I have worked to improve and perfect my craft. I’m always learning and trying something new and I absolutely love that.

SC: How do you choose the ingredients for your recipes, and do you have any specific sources or suppliers that you prefer?

PJ: I love walking into a store or farmer’s market with an open mind to see what fresh new ingredients I can incorporate into a meal. I have certain suppliers that are my go-to for meats, seafood, charcoal etc. but I love to experiment with new and exciting ingredients all the time.

SC: Can you walk us through your creative process for developing a new recipe, and how do you know when it’s ready to share with your followers?

PJ: I very rarely make the same thing the exact same way twice. For me, it’s all about feel and what I’m inspired by at that time. Whether it’s a different blend of seasonings, or different types of cooking woods, I try to improve on every cook from the last time I prepared the same thing. 

As for sharing it with my followers, I am very transparent with my content. I am not a trained “chef” but I do consider myself and everyday “Dad Chef” and the content I create is not made for social media, it’s the meals that I am preparing for my family and friends and I think that a lot of people find that relatable.

SC: What has been the most challenging aspect of running The PaulieStrong Foundation, and how have you overcome any obstacles?

PJ: The most challenging aspect of running The PaulieStrong Foundation is by far the emotional tidal wave that strikes without warning on a regular basis. As a parent, it’s our job to protect our children and when we lost Paulie and there was nothing in the world that we as parents could do, it was such a painful and helpless feeling. Those feelings come rushing back so often as there is always another milestone that Paulie missed out on. Birthdays, holidays, graduations, etc. As a dad, it was my job to teach my son about the world and now I am going to teach the world about my son.

SC: How do you balance your social media presence with your personal life, and what are some of the challenges of being an influencer in today’s digital landscape?

PJ: For me, I try to maintain an authentic approach to social media. I am very passionate about what I do and I will not endorse or promote a product / service that I don’t truly use and believe in. I also don’t ever want it to feel like a job which is partly why I create content based on what I am feeding our family and friends as opposed to creating content just to feed the social media monster…  

One of the downsides is that the algorithm of the social channels don’t necessarily like that and it can absolutely impact the reach of the content that I do create. I have learned to be ok with that because I want my content to remain authentic and relatable  at all times.

SC: What are your future goals for your BBQ career and The PaulieStrong Foundation, and how can Stalwart Crafts support your efforts?

PJ: My goal is to continue to spread my love and passion for cooking while creating awareness for the PaulieStrong Foundation. All of my grill / cookers are branded in some way with #PaulieStrong and the majority of my cooks are done in my #PaulieStrong shirt or hat, and even my stunningly beautiful Stalwart Craft Apron is engraved with our logo.

I am constantly asked what it means, and many people look it up out of curiosity and this is definitely helping us to raise awareness. As of 2023, we have raised over Two Million Dollars for childhood cancer research.

Conclusion: 

Stalwart Crafts wants to thank Paul for taking the time to share his story and the amazing work he is doing for children’s cancer research. If you would like to donate to the amazing PaulieStrong Foundation, you can do so at the link here: Donate.

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