Ray Magnuson jokes that his wife is just now getting used to the idea of him coming home every day smelling of smoked meat.
It’s an understandable occupational hazard working in a small food truck which includes a meat smoker.
Smoke and Sow is the latest offering to join Whitehorse’s growing summer food truck scene.
Inside his truck, dubbed General Sow, Magnuson whips up barbecue including beef brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sausages and whole chickens.
Maybe “whipped up” is not quite the right way to describe the process. Magnuson’s brisket will smoke for 14 hours before it is served, the pulled pork takes 12 hours, the ribs about eight hours, the chicken four to six hours and the sausages two to three hours.
“I’m still trying to figure out when I’m going to sleep,” he said.
Getting that all done in the truck’s smoker takes some precision.
“We have to time everything perfectly because it is small. We’re probably only doing one brisket, two shoulders, four chickens, a handful of sausages and maybe four racks of ribs because that’s what we physically can do.”
For obvious reasons the truck will be dishing out food on a first-come, first-serve basis until the meat is gone.
“Because there’s no whipping up a brisket on the fly,” he said.
Smoke and Sow’s official launch is May 26 in Rotary Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Magnuson was born and raised in the Yukon and has spent 15 years in Calgary working as a chef in fine dining restaurants, not exactly the ideal locations to hone your skills nursing a piece of meat to barbecue glory.
So instead, after work he would use his own small smoker to practice.
“I would go home and cook brisket and cook ribs and pulled pork and the like. It just kind of built into a passion and I knew I needed to do something with it,” he said.
In 2016 Magnuson and his wife Dayna, who was also born and raised in the Yukon, decided to move home. Their original plan was to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Whitehorse but when those plans fell through Magnuson had to find himself another job.
“So I went out into the bush and worked for a year and a half, saved up some money and bought General Sow.”
The general is a 2000 Ford Econoline van turned food truck. After Magnuson bought it secondhand from a friend he removed the standard cooktop and replaced it with an Alto-Shaam smoker.
“It’s a small oven with a big industrial metal door and it’s got a little pan to put your wood in there when it’s smoking. Close the door and away it goes,” he said.
Magnuson said his truck is “almost more hood vent than anything else” to pull all the smoke away.
An American company has created an exclusive wood blend for Magnuson to use in his smoker. It’s a combination of of pecan, maple wood, hickory and apple, he said, but he can’t go into any more detail about the exact blend.
Smoke and Sow had a soft open at the FireFit Challenge last week in Whitehorse. There were lineups all afternoon, Magnuson said.
“It was unbelievable. I knew it would be somewhat busy from the social media buzz that we’d created. So I expected it to be somewhat busy but not to the extent that it was on Saturday.”
Along with the meat the truck offers sides including fries, mac and cheese, beans, coleslaw and potato salad.
When he was originally considering opening a full-sized restaurant in Whitehorse, Magnuson said he didn’t think there would be enough of a population base in Whitehorse to support a food truck.
“But after being here for two years and just seeing how passionate the community is about these food trucks and the people that are behind them … I kind of wanted a piece of that.”
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