It’s that classic adage that pops up for me when I hang out with good people such as Corey Anderson, chef and owner of the new food truck Biggie Boy BBQ:
“Nature, and beauty, find a way.”
Images of flowers growing out of the cracked pavement, a tree making its way upward among scattered ruins, or animals surviving and adapting by forging homes in some post-battle territory. That glimmer of hope and perseverance can make us all nod and pause for one deep breath.
Not to get into specifics here, but Anderson had a rough upbringing and a bit of a challenging life at one point. For over 30 years, he fought battles and climbed obstacles only some of us could imagine.
The one saving grace in his life from childhood to adulthood was cooking food. At nine years old he found himself having to cook for not just himself but for his little sister because no adult in his life would. In fact, Anderson had to drop out of school just to take care of himself and his sister. In his 30s, he embraced sobriety and began working in rehab facilities as an operational manager, which was rewarding but definitely not his calling.
Cooking was all he wanted to do and thought about.
Not just cooking. Barbecuing.
Anderson's barbecue was so good that friends would ask him to cater a birthday here and there. Then more people came around and inquired. Then more. Before he knew it, he had to start cooking, grilling, and smoking out of a commissary just to keep up with the demands. That is when the idea for a food truck popped up.
Through a mutual friend, Anderson was able to obtain a truck that was sturdy enough to handle his style of barbecue. It isn’t the biggest truck on the lot, but after making some major adjustments and upgrades, the Biggie Boy BBQ truck was ready to serve the people some of the best ‘cue in town.
Only one problem though: getting all of those operational licenses sorted out.
"I had no idea how hard it would be to get a food truck up and running," said Anderson. "I had all of this kitchen equipment I bought ready to go but after an inspection, I had to throw it all out and start over. It’s like, I’ve been through some stuff in my life but this one was a hitch I didn’t see coming."
He fortified the truck and christened it Biggie Boy late last year, but it still wasn’t zoned or approved to sell and cook food. After all of the regulatory modifications, signed paperwork, license approval, business proposals, and general setbacks, he was finally able to start cooking and selling in March of this year.
It seemed to have paid off.
His first night in operation, parked at Nexus and Valencia Road, was a near blowout of his barbecue. Anderson and Biggie Boy didn’t have any social media presence at the time. It was a random post from a friend that brought soon-to-be fans out that night — fans that went on a rampage for his deliciously smoked meats and hearty mac 'n cheese.
His first night parked at The Pit on 22nd and Pantano, which is a space specifically utilized for a herd of local food trucks on a daily basis, he completely sold out. In fact, Anderson had to close up much earlier than anticipated that night.
When you eat his savory heavyweight grub you will know exactly why.
Biggie Boy BBQ is barbecue for the world-class eaters out there. Slowly smoked meats that waterfall with juices. Hot links that pop and provoke in all the right manners. Mac ‘n cheese weighing in for the gold belt side dish of the world.
A few items Anderson insisted I tasted, and that he considers his signature dishes, is anything with the word "loaded" in the heading. When the Loaded Pulled Pork Nachos arrived, my initial impression of the dish was, "Loaded? Don’t you mean jammed or crammed?"
I took those nachos and did about 10 reps each as today was, apparently, arm day. If memory serves, Joey Chestnut was leering over me and when he got a glimpse of the heaving stronghold of cheese, meat, and chips all he could muster was, "Yeah, no."
But I did.
Every inch of this barbecued acropolis was insistent with deep-rooted flavor and well-thought-out composure. And it's nachos — this isn’t an appetizer, dear reader, it’s a space station.
The same went for his loaded potatoes. Somewhere under the glorious meat and sauce sheath was a potato. It took me a few swings to clear the field but when I did, there it was — content and appreciative to be nearly devastated by toppings that go beyond the righteous way of eating a loaded potato. It entered the ethereal.
The sandwiches are of equal nobility and the full plate dinners are sizable enough to make any wrongdoings of the past vapor away in a mist of brisket steam.
It starts with the meats but it does not end there. Anderson is planning on introducing a "build your own bowl" option with some of it being completely vegan as he is playing around with jackfruit and other plant-based ingredients. Just omit the cheese and such and vegans can finally enjoy the Biggie Boy BBQ truck.
"Even though I always post that meme that says 'Don’t come to a barbecue expecting vegan options,'" he said. "Well, they will soon."
The beauty spawned from adversity into prosperity is something Anderson and his food exude. In the early morning drowse that most of us embrace, just know that this man has been up for a while, stoking the wood fires and turning his meats hours before service that day.
He knows he may not get rich off of running a barbecue food truck, but his commitment to serving the community some of the best slow-cooked food in Tucson is what makes him wealthy. I mean, he will probably win a bunch of barbecue awards and make it on television someday so, you know, there’s that.
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Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...