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The Wandering Que, a hackensack-based kosher barbecue truck and pop-up restaurant, is featured in a new TV show “Shmoozing and Cruising: Tripping on Kosher Americana.”
The show, now available on ChaiFlix, a streaming platform dedicated to Jewish content, explores innovative Kosher restaurants in the United States and highlights a different theme in each half-hour episode, including barbecue, donuts, pizza and food Chinese.
Ari White, the 44-year-old pitmaster behind Wandering Que, got his start in the restaurant by accident. The native of El Paso, Texas, came to New York for college in 1998 after spending a year in Israel.
Later, after he graduated and got married, he loaned a friend some money to open a small restaurant in Washington Heights. But shortly before opening, his friend decided not to move forward with the business and White quit his job, “jumped behind the counter and never looked back.”
He later expanded into a catering business and bought a barbecue trailer to smoke meats over a wood fire and brought his Texas kosher barbecue to street fairs, music festivals and other events throughout the area. metropolitan
White was crowned “Brisket King of New York” in 2016 in a competition among local barbecue pitmasters in New York City.
“That’s when things really started to explode,” he said.
After a three-year build, just weeks before COVID-19 in 2020, White opened his smoke house at 75 Burlews Court in Hackensack, with a small fleet of barbecue trucks and trailers.
The business pivoted quickly during the pandemic, still bringing food but expanding its reach to Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, D.C. and Boston. Having a mobile kitchen that could travel anywhere allowed White to easily host backyard weddings and outdoor parties when many indoor venues were closed, he said.
Most of his drop-shipping customers are kosher, but White said the customers he serves at concerts and festivals are a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish barbecue fans.
The meat is cooked “low and slow” on a 10,000-pound pit smoker. “There are no tricks in this smoking game, no shortcuts,” he said. “We use woods like oak, maple and fruit wood and a minimalistic approach to seasoning and let the smoke do all the work.”
The breast of the white cook from 14 to 20 hours. The results are “the juiciest, tastiest meat imaginable,” he said.
The Jewish tradition of barbecue has deep roots, White said. “Legacy joints” like Katz’s Deli and Pastrami Queen have been serving smoked meats for decades.
“There were a million places in New York that smoked their own brisket. But most of them are gone,” he said. “I came here and reintroduced the same methods that my grandfather had known when he came to this country.”
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Next week, White will smoke more than 400 turkeys for 10 to 12 hours and deliver them to more than a dozen states for Thanksgiving.
So, White is going to take his barbecue even further. He plans to take two trailers to Israel, where he will work with the organization Grilling for IDF, serving the troops in bases on the front lines and feeding the thousands of people who have been displaced during the war.
The 4-by-4-by-6-foot smoker on the back of each trailer can cook a huge amount of food at one time.
“This would actually allow them to serve two or three times as many people,” he said.
White, a father of five, plans to spend Hanukkah in Israel cooking and training people to use the equipment, before returning to the United States to his family.
“There are mouths on all sides of the world to feed,” he said. “But the three weeks here are going to be incredible.”
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