FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — If you see Mark Peterson barreling down the Richardson Highway with smoke billowing out of the 24-four foot trailer he's pulling behind his truck, don't panic. It's supposed to be that way.
Peterson is the big barbecue man behind Bad 2 Da Bone BBQ. The trailer is his mobile smoking unit, a barbecue behemoth he uses for catering gigs, festivals and special occasions when he isn't manning the permanent kitchen of his barbecue business located inside The Gas Line on the corner of College Road and the Steese Highway. With help from his wife, Rachell, and several employees, Peterson is carving a spot into the Fairbanks barbecue scene.
"It's actually a labor of love," Peterson said of running Bad 2 Da Bone BBQ, meeting the demands of cooking for festivals and events, and hosting impromptu barbecue contests with friends and family, all the while wrangling three young sons with Rachell. "I think I took all of two days off last year. People enjoy the food, and that makes me feel good."
It was actually Rachell who got Mark started on the barbecue venture with a "cheap, little smoker" she bought him years ago. That cheap little smoker laid the groundwork for Mark's barbecue passion, and through years of trial and error and at least seven large smokers later, he's got his smoking technique down, he said. Now, that venture includes the brisket, ribs and pulled pork he sells at The Gas Line as well as firing up his mobile smoking unit when cooking at the Tanana Valley State Fair, the Boatel's yearly birthday bash or at private events such as weddings and parties.
It's the giant, black smoker on wheels emblazoned with a pig on a surfboard that usually lures people in. When serving and preparing food in the mobile unit, Mark often gets up at 3 or 4 a.m. to start the fire and ensure the smoke and heat is just right. And it's the smoke that gets people hooked during Mark's drive from their home in North Pole to Fairbanks.
"The whole way to town, people will smell that smoke and follow him in," Rachell said.
The Petersons invested in the mobile unit in spring 2013, and in November 2013 moved into the empty kitchen and deli space at The Gas Line. Word of mouth spread through Fairbanks and North Pole food circles of Mark's barbecue and smoking skills, and since then he's amped up his catering gigs while maintaining a busy restaurant. And like any good barbecuer, good luck getting any culinary secrets out of Peterson. He won't tell you.
"I even have my own special seasoning," he said. "People who work here don't even know what it is."
The most advice he will give are a few smoking techniques he's mastered, and that advice is usually reserved for close friends. "Now, my buddies' moms call and ask for advice," Mark said, "but I sort of keep quiet about my methods." He's even created his own vinegar-based barbecue sauce, but like most of cooking, the recipe and details are off limits.
The one secret he did share is his time frame — that 3 to 4 a.m. wake up time to start the fire — and in April Peterson will be putting his mobile unit to the ultimate barbecue test when he loads up and travels to the winter sports fest Arctic Man, where he anticipates serving anywhere between 400 to 600 pounds of barbecue per day. He's already worked out deliveries and restocking options with Rachell, who will be transporting brisket, pork, ribs and whatever else Mark needs from Fairbanks to the Hoodoo Mountains where Arctic Man takes place.
For the restaurant and local cooking jobs, Mark is down-to-Earth about what he does — keep the barbecue good and the customers happy.
"I just want to give people a good product for a good price," he said.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com