Tim Idzikowski, the 36-year-old operator of the popular Ferndale-based Detroit BBQ Company truck, died on Thursday April 14 at his home. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Idzikowski, who is remembered by friends and colleagues in the restaurant industry as both generous and sometimes brash, was known for many things. Idzikowski was the kind of guy who dropped off pots of barbecue meats to his friends in the restaurant industry or charities like the Detroit Dog Rescue, just to make sure his cooking buddies or other lovers dogs were fed. He did the same whenever he encountered homeless people he passed near his commissioner’s kitchen in Ferndale.
“They all knew if they saw his blue truck they could come down for a sandwich and a cigarette and usually five bucks,” says his wife Tracey Kane.
Born in Detroit and raised in Fair Haven, Michigan, Idzikowski first viewed the barbecue-making process as nothing more than a means of earning “beer money” when he began to cooking and selling ribs and chicken with his brother Zac. as a friend in 2009 at the Grosse Pointe Farmer’s Market.
Little did he know he would find his purpose when he and his brother started Detroit BBQ, a mobile restaurant that has become one of the most beloved (if not the infamous) food trucks and barbecue restaurant businesses in the metro. from Detroit. Over the years, it became his passion. And ended up playing matchmaker.
Kane recalls meeting Idzikowski on a dating app and first meeting him in his truck in 2016 at Ferndale’s annual Pig & Whiskey Festival, where Detroit BBQ Company was a regular vendor. Kane was immediately drawn to Idzikowski’s larger than life personality and crystal blue eyes.
“He asked me to come up [to Pig & Whiskey] and I was playing a bit on the sidelines,” she says. “I think on some level, like, he wanted me to see like the full Detroit BBQ show.”
The two may have met, but BBQ has found ways to keep much of his focus. In 2018, the day before the couple’s wedding shower, he received a call from a frantic customer saying an event with 500 people had caused their caterer to be canceled at the last minute and he could help. Her brother stepped in to take charge, Kane says, and the two married without any further barbecue emergencies on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Glass House at Lake St. Clair Metropark. It was just one of many instances where Idzikowski showed he was willing to drop everything to lend a helping hand.
In the local restaurant community, he was known both as a strong supporter of his comrades on the line and as a bit of an instigator on social media.
In 2014, Idzikowski and Detroit BBQ received a flood of negative reviews and threats after posting a social media post about the murder of two New York City cops. Following his initial comments, he said at the time that a local Detroit cop posted his phone number on a forum. Prior to this installment, he had come under fire for making threats against a competing barbecue company for allegedly stealing a photo of ribs from his social media account.
His younger brother Zac then parted ways with Detroit BBQ and helped start Woodpile BBQ Shack in Clawson in late 2015, along with Treat Dreams’ Scott Maloney, while the elder Idzikowski continued to hone his craft.
While friends and colleagues recognize Idzikowski’s reputation for his sometimes rude remarks, they have also pointed to his many examples of generosity over the years.
“I always teased him when I saw him at an event or sharing a kitchen space, I always said to him, ‘If people find out you’re a nice guy, your cover is blown,'” Chef James explains. Rigato, who leads Mabel Gray in Hazel Park and was a longtime friend of Idzikowski.
Rigato says that before he met Idzikowski a decade ago, he wasn’t a huge fan of the barbecue offerings that came out of the Detroit metro. That changed when Rigato tried Idzikowski’s dry-rubbed ribs and chest.
“Then I got his and I was like, ‘Okay, you changed your mind, I like your BBQ,” says Rigato.
His influence on the local barbecue scene cannot be underestimated. Another longtime friend, Stephen Roginson, owner of Batch Brewing Company in Corktown, says Idzikowski was his master mentor.
“What I learned about him was his bandwidth for generosity. It was, without fail, the first call I received, every time I raised my hand and said there was an issue I wanted to work on. [was from him,]” he says.
Both Rigato and Roginson say they grew closer to Idzikowski during the pandemic, while helping Roginson with Batch Brewing’s “pay what you can” events that offered service industry workers and anyone in the needed a hot meal, and when he and Rigato were debating the best ways to keep their staff and businesses safe during the global health crisis.
More recently, Idzikowski was on track to open a take-out restaurant and a commissary kitchen so he could expand. He was due to meet an estate agent on Thursday last week to view a building in Livonia, but when his wife went to see him he was found unresponsive.
In addition to Kane, Idzikowski is survived by his mother Lori, his father Tim, his brother Zac and his wife Katie, as well as four nieces and nephews, and his sister Kelly.
A memorial honoring Idzikowski’s life is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20 at Batch Brewing, where the Detroit BBQ team will be on hand to cook up more of Idzikowski’s famous meats. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to Detroit Dog Rescue or Focus Hope.