Bevan Sweeney is a neighbour everyone would love to live next to in Terrace.
The smell of wood-smoked, flavourful briskets and pork shoulders is what Sweeney’s whole neighbourhood smells like at six in the morning when he pulls out the meat from the smoker pits in his backyard. And to add to it, he loves feeding people authentic Southern -style BBQ.
That is precisely what drove him to set-up the Redneck Kitchen food truck five years ago.
Sweeney’s choice of name of the food truck has brought him a couple of rough comments from people, but he says that before the word took on a derogatory meaning it was used to describe a “hard working person out in the fields.”
“I’ve had people come and tell me that they didn’t want to eat my food because of the name of my food truck but I kept the name because I wanted to show people that the term redneck is not a bad thing,” said Sweeney.
His food truck which was often a sight for the sore eyes in Terrace, is now awaited eagerly by residents across northwest B.C.
A simple message on their Facebook page – ‘today we’re in town’– gets hundreds of residents from Prince Rupert and Kitimat to flock to the food truck to buy signature sandwiches, briskets and the famed ‘hot mess’ – a gooey mix of french fries, chili, pulled pork, pickles and sauces.
Within a couple hours of opening, they are sold out – which on a typical day ranges anywhere between 150 to 200 pounds of brisket, 80 to 90 pounds of pork shoulders, 24 racks of ribs, 150 pounds of french fries and 40 to 60 pounds of chili.
With no formal culinary background, Sweeney built his first smoke pit in 2007 as a passion project and began catering for weddings and events. “People who ate the food kept telling me to open a restaurant or a food truck so that others could taste this food, too,” said Sweeney.
After a back injury, Sweeney was told by doctors to quit his job as a truck driver and find something else to do.
“The only other thing that I knew that I was good at was cooking barbeque,” he said about the time when he finally decided to set up the food-truck.
He went to the Texas and learned from brisket masters themselves how to cook the meat properly.
After a week of eating briskets and getting useful tips from chefs, Sweeney came back from Texas with his newly-purchased food truck.
So what is the secret to a perfect brisket that he learned on that journey? “Don’t try too hard, just leave the meat alone,” he says.
“That’s the secret to this style of food, don’t keep opening and peeping all the time, slow down and let the cooker do it for you.”
Another secret – “BBQ isn’t just about the food, it’s about the people.”
Sweeney also attributes this sentiment to Texas where he saw hundreds of people lined up for hours and hours to get a taste of Texas BBQ.
“I just loved the whole scene, it was kind of like a party every weekend when they cooked barbecue. People just came, ordered the barbecue and sat down at picnic tables and enjoyed their food. There were people from all over the world and it was an experience that I will never forget.”
This culture is what Sweeney is trying to recreate in northwest B.C. with his food – although with the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and masking, it has been really hard to bring that “feeling of strangers turning into friends,” said Sweeney.
He has often seen this happen near his own food truck as people reach out to help others with food choices if they’re trying out the food for the first time.
“We’ve even had people take ribs out of their own order and give it to somebody and say ‘Just try this,’” said Sweeney.
For the last couple of weeks Sweeney and his team of two have been cooking on site for the LNG project in Kitimat. On some days they get contracted to serve food to around 250 workers who work on site.
In the future, he also plans to expand his business and buy a bigger food truck to be able to cater to more than a 1000 people.
Despite it being a thriving business, Sweeney said that more than the money, he’s in it for the love of feeding people authentic BBQ meat.
“We are making money, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes into preparing the meals,” said Sweeney who works six days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“It is a long process – the meat has to go into the smoker almost 16 hours before it is ready to be served.”
But despite that, he is never tired of repeating the process the next day. “I’m just a guy who loves cooking a lot of meat for customers who love eating this food,” said Sweeney.
“It warms my heart and almost makes me want to cry, some days when I get all of these wonderful comments from people telling me how much they love my food and it’s what keeps me going when I’m overwhelmed with the amount of hours that I put in,” he said.
Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard