If you go to any food truck festival in the NJ area, look around for the longest line. Wherever it is, you’re likely to find Bearded One BBQ. The bearded man working the grill is—you guessed it—the owner and founder of this nationally recognized food truck. Pitmaster Chris D’Addario and his wife, Jess, founded Bearded One BBQ several years ago.
Its local roots and national success make it the perfect choice to headline our new mini-series; simply put, we’re spotlighting The Best New Jersey Food Trucks.
What was once a fun hobby has turned into a full-fledged weekend business every spring, summer and fall. Bearded One BBQ has even entered and dominated barbecue competitions; but there are no signs of slowing down for this Jersey City-born food truck.
Find the Pig
From late March throughout October, a bearded pot-bellied pig mascot graces signs at events nearly every weekend. The tantalizing scents emanating from their truck are enough to ensnare even the strongest-willed of those among us.
Bearded One BBQ keeps a concise menu, offering traditional dishes like pulled pork, chopped brisket and smoked wings; however, D’Addario gets creative to bring fans some of the most dynamic barbecue they have ever enjoyed. A staple at the truck is their famous beef brisket grilled cheese; it’s a traditional grilled cheese sandwich brimming with tender beef brisket. The meal is expertly seasoned and smoked for more than 10 hours by the pitmaster himself.
Bearded One BBQ also crafts their own mac-n-cheese made from three different cheeses; Then, they are topped with a heaping of your choice of beef brisket or pulled pork.
As part of The Best New Jersey Food Trucks, Best of NJ spoke with the owners of Bearded One BBQ. We learned more about the truck, their food, and what the future holds for this event fan-favorite. The interview took place during a Central New Jersey food truck festival on a warm October Saturday; fans of the food truck frequently stopped the couple to gush over their love of the mouthwatering barbecue. “It was absolutely out of this world,” one patron professed. And I completely agreed.
The Best New Jersey Food Trucks: Bearded One BBQ Interview
Best of NJ: Where are you both from?
Chris D’Addario: Rahway and Toms River.
BoNJ: How long have you two been together?
Chris: We met about 12 years ago, and we’ve been married for two years now.
BoNJ: What did you do before Bearded One BBQ was born?
Chris: We still work full-time. This is our side job. This was just a hobby that grew into something… really expensive [laughs].
BoNJ: How did Bearded One BBQ come about?
Chris: It was a hobby that grew out of hand. It started out with a little grill and a little bigger smoker, then a really big smoker, then multiple smokers; then eventually a 20-foot trailer with basically everything. We started doing competitions. Then we realized this costs a lot of money, so we started vending. So it grew organically from horrible competitions to winning grand champions.
A Student Outside the Classroom
BoNJ: Do you have any barbecue education or professional culinary experience?
Chris: Zero. I just love to cook and mess around. Then your friends will tell you your cooking’s really good, and you don’t believe them; but when you keep hearing it, you think, “Well, maybe I have something here.” And that’s when we started entering competitions.
BoNJ: What was the first competition you entered?
Chris: It was one in Staten Island about five years ago. Then last year we won it.
BoNJ: What did you win last year?
Chris: We won Grand Champion; first place brisket, third place ribs, fourth place pork, and that led us to be the overall champions.
BoNJ: Where do you hope to flourish in the future with these competitions?
Jess: Chris would love to be a stay-at-home dad [laughs]. He would love to do corporate catering and stuff like that eventually.
Chris: We’re hoping to enter more competitions and maybe even become world champions either in Kansas City or Tennessee. We would like to make it down there again. That’s where you can make a name for yourself.
The Start of Something Big
BoNJ: How many years have you been coming to these festivals?
Chris: This is our second year of doing this really heavily. Before that, we would do an event here and an event there; in 2016, we hooked up with JustJersey Fest and started doing event after event after event. Now, every single weekend is booked.
You get to know different trucks, and you get to become friends. And after a while, it becomes like a family; because you see them more often than you see your own relatives sometimes.
BoNJ: What was the business like when you started out?
Chris: A mess. The first real festival we did was the Beer, BBQ & Bacon Showdown in 2016. That was our first one and that was extremely busy, but we had no idea what we were doing. After that, we got more equipment, more products.
Jess: Yeah, that was a big eye-opener. But he did make a name for himself when he won “Best BBQ” that year.
BoNJ: Who helps you hold the fort down at a lot of these events now?
Chris: We really get a lot of help and support from friends and family. That’s a great part of all this; we get to work with friends and family and have fun. It’s a tight group of us who do this, and it’s great.
Success Ain’t Easy
BoNJ: You’ve experienced a significant amount of success in a short period of time with your food truck. What do you attribute that to? Would you say it’s mainly the competitions?
Chris: I think it’s a little bit of everything. We always try to cook the same way, whether it’s for a competition or for an event. And I think that is beneficial. In 2017, I had to have cooked more than 30 thousand pounds of brisket; and that helps me work more efficiently and always make my food consistent. Now it’s just second nature — as well as practice. And winning competitions doesn’t hurt either [laughs].
BoNJ: How early in the week does event prep normally start?
Chris: Usually, Tuesdays we’ll finish cleaning up whatever we need to clean up from the previous week. Then, Thursdays we begin prepping everything. It’s usually two days of prep.
BoNJ: So what would you say is the most popular item on your menu?
Chris: What would you say is the most popular [laughs]?
BoNJ: Brisket grilled cheese!
Chris: You got it [laughs]!
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All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ