ST. LUCIE COUNTY − A fire this week at Big Worm’s BBQ food truck business consumed a key component to the eatery, but the overnight, slow prepared meats will be back.
“It’s definitely a big blow,” Tim Bartnick, a partner in the food truck with Corey LaFlesh, known as Big Worm, said of the fire. “We’re going to be back better than ever.”
Around 1 a.m. Tuesday, Bartnick, 40, got a call alerting him to the fire, which was south of Midway Road on the west side of South U.S. 1 in the 5200 block.
The fire was to a trailer, which was about 20 to 22 feet, containing a smoker, prep kitchen and storage, as opposed to the larger food truck.
St. Lucie County Fire District crews were called around 12 a.m., according to Brenda Stokes, Fire District spokesperson.
Big Worm’s BBQ food truck is situated on a business property close to South U.S. 1 traffic, while the trailer that burned was tucked behind a large building there a short walk away.
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Bartnick, standing at the scene Wednesday, showed a photo of what was left of the charred trailer. The trailer, he said, is “toast” with nothing to be salvaged.
The main food truck close to U.S. 1 is where the food is served, with about 30 percent of the food prepared there.
Stokes reported the fire caused no injuries, though two nearby vehicles got some minor paint bubbling because of the heat. The cause was accidental.
“Between the fire department and what we could determine it seemed like it could have been electrical, because there was nothing to indicate that there was a fail on the smoker itself,” Bartnick said.
He said they are in process of procuring another smoker, noting he has a number of caterings Saturday and is going to figure out how to borrow a smoker.
“We’ll find a way, we have a lot of other people that have reached out and offered their services,” Bartnick said. “We have a bunch of different barbecue vendors in the area that can help us out.”
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This means the pulled pork, beef brisket, spare ribs, smoked and then deep fried chicken wings and chopped chicken thighs are expected to be back.
The fire is “not even close” to the end of Big Worm’s.
Talking to Bartnick, it’s clear Big Worm’s is not your standard backyard barbecue. He describes a process that sounds to a lay person more akin to crafting artisanal whiskey than food preparation.
The meat is smoked overnight, taking about 16 hours to cook.
“It was on a gravity fed smoker where the charcoal kind of drops down slowly, and burns into the wood. So you can set the temperature and then it has an air controlled blower, and it’s electronic, so it’s plugged in,” he said. “And as that temperature drops, it blows a little bit of air into it, creates the oxygen that hits the coal and keeps it running at the set temperature.”
He uses terms like “Texas Crutch” and meat stalling.
The menu is kept simple.
“We try to go quality over quantity, about five or six different proteins, four or five sides, beverages and desserts,” Bartnick said.
Bartnick said he and LaFlesh have been friends for nearly 20 years, and it was LaFlesh’s idea to open a barbecue restaurant. The Big Worm moniker refers to a character in “Friday,” the classic 1995 movie with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker.
“I was in transition from working at the Pelican Yacht Club, and I was doing other things, and I was ready for a new change,” he said. “So we decided to start it up. And this is about two and a half years in the making.”
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Bartnick said Big Worm is more the face of the business and performs a lot of customer service and interfacing.
“I kind of do more of the behind the scenes, the cooking, the inventory, the prep work … to make sure everything kind of runs smoothly,” he said.
Bartnick said some of the recipes are his, but he and Big Worm share responsibility.
“He’s brought a lot to the table just like I have but we kind of tweaked and borrowed and made it our own,” he said. “You have to be a little different to try to make sure that you can compete.”