Chef Jon Wipfli is getting ready to smoke the competition in the Twin Cities barbecue scene.
Details on his new venture are still rather hush-hush, but he’ll soon hit the road with a 33-foot trailer, smoking and serving beef and pork.
And, oh yeah: There’ll be Brisket Brunch on the weekends.
“I love cooking brisket and I love cooking brunch,” Wipfli says. “When you get a perfect piece of brisket, there’s nothing better. It melts in your mouth, but still has a little bit of texture. It’s full of smoke. It’s super beefy. You just can’t beat it.”
Wipfli, a French Culinary Institute of New York grad whose ventures include founding the personal chef/cooking education/catering business The Minnesota Spoon and authoring Venison: The Slay to Gourmet Field to Kitchen Cookbook, has been a passionate smoker for years. “The way I think about barbecue is: It’s the true American cooking,” he says. “I always thought it was a cuisine in and of itself. I have a lot of respect for the craft of it and how difficult it is to cook a perfectly smoked piece of meat, and it’s just something I fell in love with.”
To prepare for this venture, he took multiple barbecue tours through North Carolina, Kansas City, St. Louis, Arizona, and even Denver, where he researched and sampled authentic barbecue. What constitutes “barbecue” is broad; Wipfli considers it anything cooked over an open fire, but in southern states like Texas and North Carolina, it’s cooking proteins for extended time over or in a pit.
“There’s no one real definition [of barbecue], and I think that’s a good way to keep it,” he says. “The way that we’re approaching it is the Texas or North Carolina style.” (By “we,” he means himself and a couple of guys from Able Brewing, with whom he’s hatched the barbecue trailer idea.)
His biggest inspiration came from La Barbecue in Austin, Texas: a female-owned business that started in a trailer and now has “a huge space of land where people fill up and they just eat barbecue all day.”
“It’s this perfect environment,” he says. “I feel like that’s something we can create with Able.”
Smoked meats have their own natural juices, so the menu will be “pretty light on sauce,” Wipfli says. “When we do do them, they will be on the verge of a North Carolina barbecue sauce with a little more tang, a little more pucker, than some of the sweeter sauces that people might be accustomed to.”
His custom-built trailer, purchased from a BBQ guy in Ohio, is a step-up from your standard food truck, with way more space (again: 33 feet) and capabilities. In addition to beef and pork, he’s keen on serving oysters, and may occasionally offer a venison special. The menu will include traditional sides like beans and coleslaw, but Wipfli also wants to incorporate fresh, lighter options made from seasonal farmers market ingredients.
Though he’s had ample experience cooking for guests in restaurants and via his personal chef and catering business, the trailer is his first attempt at a mobile food venture.
“I think this is right in my wheelhouse, but any time you take on a new project and open yourself up to the public, I don’t take it lightly. It’s a pretty serious thing,” he says. “We’re going to put it all out there for people to come and judge. I’m excited and hopeful. I want to make sure we’re serving the public good barbecue and doing it right.”
There’s no set location or name for the mobile BBQ behemoth just yet, but according to Wipfli, you could be eating Brisket Brunch as soon as July.