Director Mike Jeffries started his gourmet mobile BBQ catering company The Big Smoke BBQ Co back in 2010 after wanting an outlet for his creativity and passion for great food. Jeffries spoke to the team about his innovative Bacon Jam, future expansion, and new ideas up his sleeve.
What is your company background, how did you start the business?
“My partner Nadine and I had spent eight years overseas in the UK, travelling and working in our respective professions, teaching and truck driving. I’d also been helping a mate out over there doing Kiwi style spit roast catering in some of the Kiwi and Aussie pubs. When we returned to New Zealand, I wanted another outlet for my creativity and passion for great food. The idea originated through research into the events and catering industry where a possible gap might exist which could be scaled, built around and possibly developed into a franchise or profitable regional business. We knew we needed a point of difference with our catering company, something that would differentiate us from the crowd.
The company is built around a unique US custom made, portable commercial grade BBQ and smoker, one of only a few of its type in the New Zealand market, and possibly the largest. I’d seen these on American TV series BBQ Pitmasters, which was a favourite show of mine on the cooking channel. After many hours of research and getting in touch with an engineer who specialises in building these in the USA, and many hours persuading Nadine it was a good idea, we decided to take the plunge and get ours designed, built and shipped to New Zealand. Our BBQ Smoker Pit provides that ‘wow’ factor, and we pride ourselves on delivering quality food with tasty flavour combinations, cooked low and slow over wood and charcoal, which gives it that lovely smokiness. Since kicking off in 2010 our company has grown steadily, with our main focus now being weddings and corporate events.”
What are the current product range and variants and how do these products stand out in the market?
“Part of an idea I had way back at the start was to grow and expand our company and bring in new revenue by eventually looking at creating my own range of sauces and rubs to accompany meats, tying these in with our American style BBQ theme.
Our current product range includes five different meat rubs including The Mother Clucker Chicken Rub, Hogs in Heaven Pork Rub, Raging Lamb Rub, Piranha Pit Master Fish Rub, Mad Cow Beef Rub, as well as Hillbilly Harissa Paste and The Meat Sweats Spicy BBQ Sauce. Hunter’s Creek Gourmet Sausage Sauce was a recent addition named after the newest member of our Big Smoke team, our baby boy Hunter, and of course our now famous Bacon Jam. We like to think our jars and bottles will stand out because of the comical names and design of the animal characters on the labels which tie in with our logo. Bacon Jam is well known in the States but is not yet a common food item in the New Zealand market. So my interpretation of this tasty spreadable bacon is therefore something different to the marketplace here in New Zealand, and I’m pretty chuffed it’s now providing lots of interest.”
Has there been any recent company news?
“We have a new location. This year we started a branch of The Big Smoke BBQ Co in Auckland and have taken on a business partner, Carl Edwards, who is managing this branch. He is a head chef with 15 years’ experience in the food industry so we’re excited to have him on board. Carl has been coming down to the Bay of Plenty when we’ve had functions on to learn the art of low and slow American style BBQ. We saw Auckland as an ideal market for our company with the population, large corporate industry and a number of major events throughout the year. We’re looking forward to being seen out and about and known in this city, and catering for the masses.
I have also launched my new product range of BBQ sauces, meat rubs and Bacon Jam. Since the taste testing of our Bacon Jam aired on Seven Sharp recently, we’ve been overwhelmed with the follow-up of interest and publicity in this product. I’ve been swamped with emails and calls from people wanting to purchase it and try it for themselves, shops wanting to stock it, and have even been contacted by newspapers and radio stations to talk about my product. I’m proud of all my products and really excited to see where this could go.”
What are the plans for the business moving forward, is there any expansion on the horizon?
“We have future plans to slowly expand our BBQ product range, maybe introducing a hot sauce, a possible wing sauce and alongside the Bacon Jam, I have another idea up my sleeve which is a little different. Watch this space. We are currently looking to sell franchises of our Big Smoke BBQ catering company so hopefully people across New Zealand will get to try our food. I am also looking into the possibility of introducing some Low & Slow BBQ cooking classes for the everyday person who has a Weber or Broil King style BBQ so they can enjoy spending 12 hours of their weekend barbequing an awesome piece of meat. I’m lucky to be one of probably very few people on the planet that love their job, and I’m looking forward to exciting times ahead moving forward with my business and meeting new people along the way.”
Where are your products currently available to buy, and are you looking at or wanting to expand your availability? If so, where would you like to see the product situated?
“Our products are currently available to buy from The Fresh Market in Tauranga, The Aussie Butcher in Tauranga, Bubba’s Bait & Tackle Shop in Whangamata, and 4 Seasons Patio & Spa in Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland’s North Shore. We are looking at expanding our availability and have had interest from other businesses wanting to stock our products so hopefully the list of stockists will be growing shortly. I’d love to see our range of goods sold in stores across New Zealand, in butcher shops, other specialty food shops and maybe even supermarkets. I’m just chuffed that my idea from way back has now eventuated, and I’m getting my range of BBQ sauces and rubs and our name out there.”