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Mike Ariey, former NFL offensive tackle who played for the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, has been barbecuing since he was a student at San Diego State. After a few years in the league, Ariey came back home to Bakersfield and opened a retail athletic store that he co-owned with his mother and one of his brothers. But he found his true calling when he was asked to cater a wedding reception for another brother in 2003, which turned out to be a huge success. Ariey, 48, is owner and head chef of Big Mike’s Ragin’ BBQ, a local catering business he started seven years ago.
When he’s not barbecuing tri-tip, chicken or pork ribs, Ariey enjoys working out, wine tasting and visiting the Central Coast with his family.
“Cooking created a new challenge for me. It never gets boring, and I love creating new dishes. On a beautiful day, barbecue is the way to go,” said Ariey.
My first experience on a grill: It was at San Diego State as a student athlete. We grilled whenever and whatever we had; money was tight.
I grill at home: At least twice a week with a good red zinfandel.
Favorite piece of cooking equipment: My rubber gloves — they are flexible on the grill and can sure handle the heat.
My ideal summer barbecue: Baby back ribs, garlic chicken, Big Mike’s Ragin’ beans, assorted salads and grilled vegetables. Also, fresh baked honey cornbread, raspberry tea, lemonade and a frosty Cadillac margarita.
Must-haves in the kitchen:A sharp knife, garlic press, saute pan, whisk, Thermo Spatula and Cuisinart.
My go-to cookbook: The Internet.
Everything goes better with: A nice glass of red zinfandel.
Always in the fridge:Gatorade, Diet Pepsi, assorted cold cuts and yesterday’s take out.
Disaster barbecue story: I did not put the coal out properly, so on the way home I thought the vehicle was on fire!
Marinade or rub: Always start with a great rub! Garlic and brown sugar are a great starting point.
Charcoal or wood: Charcoal with a small amount of mesquite. Charcoal burns evenly and mesquite adds to the flavor profile. They are a great combination.
I always mess up:Trying to do everything myself.
I rock at making:Bacon-wrapped jalapeno shrimp and garlic chardonnay-grilled chicken.
One of my barbecue secrets:Let the meat be the star of the show — always leave sauce on the side.
I can never find:A clean apron! They don’t last long and disappear with the help.
Spice cabinet must-have: Granulated garlic, salt and pepper, chili powder, oregano, paprika and dry parsley.
Ingredients I dislike: I am a food guy. I like everything!
Items I buy in bulk:Beef and poultry products, charcoal, beans, salad and paper goods.
If I could spend the day with a famous chef, it would be:Anthony Bourdain because people say we resemble each other.
Advice I would ask Bourdain:Should I focus on opening a new restaurant or continue a successful catering career?
Favorite local restaurant: Uricchio’s Trattoria! I order osso bucco, garlic mashed potatoes and green beans.
Best food memory: Seven-course meal at Cafe Firenze, an Italian restaurant and martini bar in Moorpark.
Best culinary destination:Tuscany, a region in Italy.
Favorite cooking show to watch:Ina Garten — she makes cooking look so easy!
Most surprising food I’m not crazy about: Lamb.
Weirdest food I like:Anchovies … great on pizza.
My go-to cocktail: Bill Lee’s 747... Wow!
How I like my steak:Medium rare.
Favorite barbecue sauce:Big Mike’s Ragin’ sauce.
Favorite condiment: Hot Irish mustard and anchovy paste.
I’m addicted to: Grilling oysters with Highland heather honey.
My comfort food is:Cioppino — a seafood stew.
Local restaurant I want to eat at that I haven’t yet:Eureka!Burger.
Splurge at the grocery store: Anything sweet.
Ideal midnight snack: Root beer float.
Single tastiest thing I’ve eaten:Mussels at Luigi’s.
Favorite food discovery:A mango, butter, garlic, cilantro glaze on grilled lobster.