Wildfire Craft BBQ is Geelong’s new home of slow-cooked, high-quality Texas-style barbecued meat

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Wildfire Craft BBQ is Geelong’s new home of slow-cooked, high-quality Texas-style barbecued meat

"No rules, no tradition, just good barbecue”

That’s the motto at Geelong’s newest Texas-style barbecue restaurant Wildfire Craft BBQ. 

Opening its first venue this July, dedicated to deep southern flavours – that all-American, slow-cooked, tangy barbecue goodness – Wildfire Craft BBQ is the passion project of Geelong born-and-bred Casey Hildebrand and his partner Eliza. 

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A tender slow burn, Wildfire Craft BBQ was born back in 2018 when Casey began working at a local barbecue joint. Striking a chord with Casey, who was previously working as an apprentice chef and dabbled in smoking back in 2016, the emerging pit master dedicated his time to mastering his craft, leading to the purchase of a 500-gallon offset smoker. 

Documenting his journey into Texas-style barbecue over Instagram and attracting the attention of barbecue enthusiasts with his salt and pepper ribs, smoked beef brisket and pulled pork, Casey and Eliza began running pop-ups at breweries and venues across the region. 

“Our first popup was at the Barking Dog,” Casey explains. “It was a three-day popup from a marquee and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I worked 72 hours straight without sleep just because I just had to. We’d finish service at nine o’clock and then I would pretty much start cooking straight away and then that would be done at five o’clock the next day. And then five o’clock would also open the doors and start selling again.

“Whenever I had time I would sleep in the back of a van in the car park.”


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From there, they decided to register a kitchen from their garage in Armstrong Creek, which changed the game for Wildfire Craft BBQ. Once a simple side hustle, Casey began taking Wildfire Craft BBQ seriously in the wake of the Covid pandemic after losing his job, when the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit by the lockdown measures. 

“I was working at Fishos in Torquay [seafood restaurant]. That was an amazing experience, I met some of the best people there but after that COVID hit, I lost my job. And then I went back to doing this again and it just blew up tenfold.

“COVID pretty much brought this back into my life, and the way it started was that I was bored. I had nothing to do,” he adds. “I couldn’t go anywhere. So I smoked some meat.”

With a few posts on Instagram, some reputable chefs vouching on his behalf and a key collaboration with Boss Burger, Casey’s smoked meats and carefully crafted Wildfire Boxes caught like wildfire, pun intended. 

“The whole thing was super dodgy in the beginning, it was all just on Instagram stories. I would just post and say ‘if you wanna buy a brisket can just send me a direct message’.

“In the beginning, it was like eight people and we made alright money. And then a week later we did 12, then it went 24, then went to 40 and then we just started capping it at 60 every weekend.”

Serving serious, juicy, fresh-off-the-bone goodness from their residential garage, it became clear that there was a promising future in barbecue, leading the power couple to quit their jobs and look for a permanent venue to open a dedicated barbecue restaurant. 


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Casey and Eliza have come a long way since smoking the first slab of meat on a small backyard smoker, now opening the doors to their very own barbecue spot in Newcomb this Saturday, July 23. 

With timber benches, polished concrete floors and bright neon signage, the semi-industrial space – once a Thai restaurant – has been transformed. Now, it’s warm, modest and friendly, with a line of tables, a long handcrafted wooden centrepiece table, corrugated iron and the lingering smell of slow-cooked meats.

With an assembly-line setup, customers will be able to purchase their delicious smoky, Texas-style barbecue to either have dine-in or takeaway. 

BBQ packs are of course the hero, with a Texas Brisket Pack ($25) packed with 200gr brisket, choice of side and a sauce; the Smoked Pork Belly pack ($22) with the same deal; and a Wildfire BBQ Pack ($38.50) with 200gr of brisket, 100gr pulled pork, handmade sausage, and choice of side and sauce. 

Go big and get the Pittmaster pack ($99), with 200gr of Texas Brisket, 200gr smoked pork belly, 200gr pulled pork, handmade sausage, hot chicken wings with two sides and two sauces. You’ll also get pickles and white bread in the packs, while the sauces include Carolina Gold, Red Sauce, and Casey’s speciality Black Garlic Ketchup. 

“I would say that from across my entire career, the Black Garlic Ketchup is the one true original thing that I made, it’s my recipe. No one else has done it and it wasn’t inspired by any other recipe. This one’s entirely mine.” 

Alongside these mainstays, you’ll also find lamb ribs, hot chicken wing packs, brisket burgers and hot chicken burgers. Throughout the week, Birria tacos will also make an appearance. 

The sides are where Wildfire Craft BBQ’s individuality truly shines with house-fried rice and wok-fried veggies sitting alongside classics like smoked scallop potatoes and handcuff fries, with Casey drawing on his Filipino heritage to offer an entirely new – but incredibly delicious – barbecue experience.

“In Texas, it’s always Mac and Cheese, beans and cornbread. Those are the things you always expect but because I have Filipino heritage, I try to put myself into the menu and create items that are more reflective of us.” 


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Another drawcard with this barbecue restaurant is its commitment to its vegetarian and vegan customers. Alongside all the meaty options, Wildfire Craft BBQ offers a BBQ Veg pack, filled with half-smoked cauliflower, pulled mushroom, and eggplant burnt ends with a side and sauce. There’s also the smoked mushroom burger, made with pulled King Trumpet mushrooms, truffle aioli and slaw in Martin’s potato bun. 

“The vegetarian and vegan options are a big paint of difference for us because no one else is doing. Our BBQ veg box takes us about seven days to prepare, it’s not an afterthought for us. 

“I feel like if you’re gonna serve something vegetarian or vegan, that standard has to be just as good as the Barbecue.”

Now and then Wildfire Craft BBQ will add specials to their menu, using the barbecue and their culinary skills to highlight other cultures. 

“We like to have weekly specials where we can highlight a certain kind of meat that you just typically would never see in a barbecue shop, like smoked quail and seafood, which is something you just don’t see in a barbecue joint. 

“Hopefully in the long term, we can get enough traction and have some kitchen takeovers and get some big name pit masters from the US to come down and cook on our smoker too.”

All this is made on site, with the magic happening in a separate room out the back in a large offset smoker imported from Perth that quietly rumbles from around 3 am every day. 

“The actual tank itself was imported from Texas, so this is the closest thing we can get to Texas-style barbecue at the moment in Victoria to the best of my knowledge.”

It’s fuelled exclusively by locally sourced sugar gum and blue gum, rather than the red gum you’d find at most other barbecue joints. 

“Most people use red gum,” Casey says. “People always talk about meat and sustainability, but no one ever talks about wood and sustainability. I’m not sure if people know but there’s gonna be a red gun shortage a few years from now.

“So we try to use other blends of wood that we typically would never see in a barbecue shop, because it’s cheaper, it’s also more sustainable and you can’t tell the difference.”

Here, the meat – sourced from Lara Quality Meats – is cooked low and slow, with the Texas-style brisket clocks anywhere between eight to 16 hours in the smoker, so you know it’s going to be a tender experience of unadulterated BBQ joy. 


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Already a celebrated secret amongst lovers of all things slow-cooked and savoury, Wildfire Craft BBQ let the meat shine and with all sauces, rubs and sides made from scratch, this venue has all the signs of being an absolute mecca for American BBQ feeds. 

“I think I’ll be that guy that scratches that itch for people that have been wanting to chase this food.”

Drooling yet? So are we.

Wildfire Craft BBQ is located at 54 Watsons Road, Newcomb and will operate Wednesday to Saturday from 11 am until sold-out. The venue officially opens on Saturday, July 23 from 11 am.