Teaneck—Get out your napkins, bibs and Wetnaps! March 23 is the first of two planned visits to Teaneck this spring by Jewish BBQ pitboss Ari White and his Wandering Que, the 20 foot, 4,700 pound mobile kitchen. Ari is bringing a full smokehouse menu of genuine Texas-style barbeque to Congregation B’nai Yeshurun, to feed customers while they shop at BNOT’s pre-Pesach holiday boutique.
Wandering Que’s other Teaneck visit will be on Memorial Day weekend, on May 26, for the Annual Cedar Lane Family Festival.
Wandering Que (formerly known as Hakadosh BBQ), is owned and operated by White, and is the hugely popular barbeque pop-up arm of Gemstone Catering, based in the Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers, NY, along with its sister Shabbat delivery service Got Cholent?, inc. (which gathered a huge crowd at the Kosher Food and Wine Festival at Chelsea Piers earlier this month.) All three ventures are certified kosher under the Star-K, a globally recognized kashrut organization under the auspices of the Vaad Ha’Rabonim of Baltimore.
White explained that all three arms of his catering company serve a purpose. “I could never sell a $100,000 wedding with a name like Got Cholent?, and I could never do a roving barbeque restaurant with a name like Gemstone Catering,” he said. Got Cholent?, White explained, is his retail arm that created a piece of the pie that didn’t exist before, by doing deliveries for kiddushim, bar/bat mitzvahs and other events. The publicity and audience that they each reach often help the others. “We are often picking up other catering affairs because of Got Cholent?,” he explained.
White’s mobile kitchen is really a smoker; a custom built, Gator Pit brand, wood burning barbeque machine made in Houston. Over the past year, he’s been using it to capitalize on the food truck trend and is peddling his wares at shuls, street fairs, music festivals, and at high schools and fundraisers. Ribs, hot dogs, smoked turkey legs and three styles of brisket are featured: sliced, pulled and burnt ends. Baked beans with lamb “bacon,” jalapeño corn bread, and red cabbage slaw are served on the side.
White said that many of those he serves at street fairs and festivals aren’t necessarily looking for kosher food. They’re just looking for great barbeque. “More than half of those we serve to happen to not be Jewish or kosher, but it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I kind of like it,” he said.
“I guess I’m a chef who wears a lot of hats,” he said.
White also sometimes wears a culinary instructor hat. Last year, he taught several classes in BBQ 101 with the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts (CKCA), based in Brooklyn. “Ari does everything in the most legitimate way, using only pure wood smoke to cook his meat,” said Jesse Blonder, CKCA’s director. “It’s important for people to know that he does not use a gas-assist oven. Most barbeque restaurants, kosher or not, use some kind of gas-assist oven, to steady the temperature. But Ari does it the authentic, old fashioned way, just using his rig.
“I definitely respect what he does. He is giving the kosher community a one-of-a-kind opportunity to taste the best authentic wood smoked barbeque available,” said Blonder. “He puts a lot of hard work and love into it. There’s a way you can do it to set it and forget it, with an oven, but Ari gives it his all. I have a lot of respect for him for doing it that way,” he said.
White reported that he has every Sunday through next winter booked for Wandering Que in the tri-state area. “It’s fun, though we have a lot of moving pieces and a lot of balls in the air. It’s exciting to see this business growing in so many multiple directions,” White said.
White, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, is actually a true pitboss, what one might consider the ‘real deal,’ in terms of knowing how to run a smokehouse barbeque operation. Plus, wearing a large wraparound kippah srugah, and peddling his glatt kosher wares anywhere from the streets of Manhattan to the 25-yard line at MetLife Stadium, his brand of sweet, smoky, spicy barbeque is enhanced by his knowledge of that most-favorite Jewish cut of meat, the second-cut brisket.
Two weeks ago, Bergen County residents enjoyed Wandering Que as it popped up at Congregation Beth Tefillah in Paramus. Wandering Que will be serving the same full smokehouse menu inside at Congregation B’nai Yeshurun on March 26 from 12-9 p.m., while the boutique will run from 4:30-9 p.m.
By Elizabeth Kratz