Eric and Tammy Pederson wanted to bring the taste of southern Georgia barbecue to Flagstaff.
And with the recent opening of their food truck, Big Canyon BBQ, they are doing so a few times a week.
“I've always loved to cook. I grew up working on a smoker and in Georgia and northern Florida,” Eric Pederson said. “When I came out here, there's good restaurants, but that southern Georgia kind of taste you don't get out here. So I wanted to deliver that flavor to Flagstaff.”
Big Canyon’s menu changes slightly based on each day’s availability, but it includes pulled pork, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, smoked brisket and spare ribs as the primary options, with Eric pulling from past experience to produce the truck’s core offerings.
“Being in southern kitchens with different families in Georgia and northern Florida, and then learning from the old mothers and things like that of those homes, they taught me how to do the business and put the spices together,” Eric said. “So it's old-school recipes, and then we use new technology like our smokers, the latest in technology. But it's old-school smoking techniques.”
Even the truck itself hails from Georgia. The two traveled all the way across the country to Waycross, Georgia, where the trailer was built by the same people who constructed Guy Fieri’s.
“From the ground up. They did a really great job, and kind of walked us through the process and helped us get started because we haven't had that experience in a mobile food unit business before,” Eric said. “We needed good guidance and they gave it to us.”
The idea for the business came as Eric and Tammy were on vacation and thinking about retiring from their insurance careers. The two have lived in Flagstaff since November 2014 when Tammy was transferred to Flagstaff and Eric followed shortly after. After stops in other cities around the state, including Phoenix, Kingmand and Lake Havasu, the two reached the spot they wanted to live in.
“It was our dream to live here,” Tammy said. “We love the mountain, we love the trees. We traveled the desert and finally made it to paradise.”
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Though it is early in the process, with the truck officially opening in mid-December, the feedback from customers has been crucial.
“We love the people here. They give us feedback, they tell us what they like. One guy said, ‘Hey, I like a little more black pepper on my brisket’,” Eric said. “So I've added it to the recipe so I can kind of fit the mold so to speak of what Flagstaff needs.”
In addition to the rotating meat options, Tammy and Eric have their own sauces and sides with every plate. Along with their smoke, sweat and heat barbecue sauces, the sides regularly include mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, and coleslaw, with a few others occasionally on the menu.
While currently open just three days a week, the demand has been strong enough for Eric and Tammy to sell out of a few things each day. While Eric said he’s increased how much he puts into the smoker as business grows, the demand is the reason for the disappearance of some menu items on occasion.
As a result, customers should head over to the day’s location closer to the truck’s opening at 11 a.m. if possible. While 3 p.m. is typically the planned closure time, Big Canyon has wrapped up early on more than a few occasions as its stock was sold out.
Big Canyon also offers family pack meals customers can buy when the truck is open, and can cater smaller groups if given three or four days notice to get the food prepared.
“We have people that come and get just the meatloaf,” Tammy said. “They will get four meatloafs and then we're sold out before we even had the chance to sell it.”
Currently, Eric and Tammy are at NAPA Auto Parts on Butler Avenue for Wednesdays and Fridays, while Saturdays are at Hurst Firestone Auto on Route 66.
Bob Hurst got the two started at his business on Route 66 and referred them over to NAPA, landing them in their current spots. However, as they get more comfortable with the process and clientele, Big Canyon could open up more often and in a new space.
“We went to planning and zoning and they said ‘Why don't you park downtown? You know, we need more selection downtown for barbecue,’ so we plan to park down there in the near future,” Eric said. “Right now, we just want to get the systems down and learn the customer base up here to understand their taste buds."