The Wandering Kue, a Kosher BBQ food truck and pop-up restaurant based in Hackensack, is featured on the new TV show Shmoozing and Cruising: Tripping on Kosher Americana.
The show, now available on ChaiFlik, a streaming platform dedicated to Jewish content, explores innovative kosher restaurants across the US and highlights different topics in each half-hour episode, including barbecue, donuts, pizza and Chinese food.
Ari White, the 44-year-old pitmaster behind Wandering Que, got his start in the restaurant business by accident. A native of El Paso, Texas, he 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 just before opening, his friend decided not to go ahead with the business and White left the business, jumped behind the counter and never looked back.
He then expanded into the catering business and purchased a wood-fired barbecue trailer and brought his Texas kosher barbecue to street fairs, music festivals and other events throughout the metropolitan area.
White was crowned the 2016 Brisket King of New York in a competition between local New York barbecue masters.
That’s when things really started to explode, he said.
After three years of construction, just weeks before COVID hit in 2020, White opened his smokehouse at 75 Burlevs Court in Hackensack, with a small fleet of trucks and barbecue trailers.
The business turned around quickly during the pandemic, still delivering food but expanding its reach to Detroit, Cleveland, Washington and Boston. Having a mobile kitchen that can travel anywhere allowed White to easily host backyard weddings and outdoor parties when many indoor venues were closed, he said.
Most of his direct delivery customers are kosher, but White said the customers he serves at concerts and festivals are a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish barbecue fans.
Meats are cooked low and slow in 10,000 pound smokers. There are no tricks, no shortcuts in this smoking game, he said. We use woods like oak, maple and fruit and take a minimalist approach to seasoning and let the smoke do all the work.”
The white breast is cooked for 14 to 20 hours. The results are the juiciest, tastiest meat imaginable, he said.
The Jewish tradition of barbecuing has deep roots, White said. Outdated restaurants like Katzs Deli and Pastrami Queen have been serving smoked meats for decades.
There used to be a zillion places in New York that smoked their own brisket. But they have largely disappeared, he said. I came here and reintroduced the same methods that my grandfather knew 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.
Then White will take his barbecue even further. He plans to take two trailers to Israel, where he will work with the Grilling Organization for the IDF, serving troops at front-line bases and feeding thousands of people displaced during the war.
A 4 x 4 x 6 foot smoker on the back of each trailer can cook a huge amount of food at one time.
That would really 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 US to his family.
There are mouths in all corners of the world that need to be fed, he said. But three weeks there will be amazing.
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