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Tim Idzikowski, Larger Than Life Founder of Detroit BBQ Company, Has Died

The sometimes controversial self-taught grill master was remembered for always lending a hand within the city’s restaurant community

Tim Idzikowski, founder of Detroit BBQ, pictured here in 2015 applying a dry rub to ribs to prepare for barbecuing.
Tim Idzikowski, founder of Detroit BBQ Company, pictured here in 2015 applying a dry rub to ribs. Idzikowski was found unresponsive on April 14, 2022. He died in his sleep.
rationalgaze.com

Tim Idzikowski, the 36-year-old operator of popular Ferndale-based truck Detroit BBQ Company, died Thursday, April 14 in his home. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Idzikowski, who friends and colleagues in the restaurant industry remember him as both generous and occasionally brash, was known for many things. Idzikowski was the type of guy who would drop off pans of barbecue meats to his restaurant industry friends or for charities like the Detroit Dog Rescue, just to make sure his comrades in the kitchen or fellow dog lovers were fed. He did the same whenever he came across the unhoused individuals he would pass near his commissary kitchen in Ferndale.

“They all knew if they saw his blue truck that 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 at first considered the process of making barbecue as not much more than a means for earning “beer money” when he first started cooking and selling ribs and chicken along with his brother Zac as well as a friend in 2009 at the Grosse Pointe Farmers Market.

Little did he know that he would find his purpose when he and his brother launched Detroit BBQ, a mobile restaurant that has gone on to become one of the most beloved (if not infamous) barbecue food trucks and catering businesses in metro Detroit. Over the years, it became his passion. And eventually played matchmaker.

Kane recalls matching with Idzikowski on a dating app and meeting him for the first time at his truck in 2016 during 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 his crystal blue eyes.

To the left, Tim Idzikowski and his wife Tracey Kane. Idzikowski, owner of the Detroit BBQ Company died in his home on April 14, 2022.
Courtesy of Stephen Roginson

“He asked me to come up [to Pig & Whiskey] and I was kind of playing aloof,” she says. “I think on some level, like, he wanted me to see like the full Detroit BBQ show.”

The two might have met each other’s match, but barbecue found ways to keep hold of much of his focus. In 2018, the day before the couple’s wedding shower, he got a call from a frantic customer saying that an event with 500 people had their caterer cancel last minute and could he help them out. His brother stepped in to take charge, says Kane, and the two married without any other barbecue-related emergencies on October 27, 2018 at the Glass House at Lake St. Clair Metropark. It was just one of many instances in which Idzikowski showed he was willing to drop everything to lend a hand.

In the local food service community, he was known both as a staunch 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 he published a social media post regarding the killing of two New York City cops. In the aftermath of his original comments, he said at the time that a local Detroit cop published his phone number on a forum. Prior to that flap, he had been under fire for making threats against a competing barbecue business for allegedly stealing a photo of ribs from his social media account.

His younger brother Zac went on to part ways with Detroit BBQ and helped to launch Woodpile BBQ Shack in Clawson in late 2015, along with Scott Maloney of Treat Dreams, while the elder Idzikowski continued honing his craft.

While friends and colleagues acknowledge Idzikowski’s reputation for his, at times, crass remarks, they also pointed out his many instances of generosity over the years.

“I used to always tease him when I would see him at an event, or sharing a kitchen space, I would always tell him, ‘If people find out you’re a nice guy, your cover is blown,’” says chef James Rigato, who runs Mabel Gray in Hazel Park and was a longtime friend of Idzikowski’s.

Rigato says prior to meeting Idzikowski about a decade ago, he wasn’t much of a fan of the barbecue offerings that came out of metro Detroit. That changed when Rigato tried Idzikowski’s dry-rubbed ribs and brisket.

“Then I had his and I was like, ‘Okay, you changed my mind, I like your barbecue,’” Rigato says.

His influence on the local barbecue scene can’t be understated. Another longtime friend, Stephen Roginson, owner of Batch Brewing Company in Corktown, says that Idzikowski was his pit master mentor.

“What I learned about him was his bandwidth for generosity. It was, without fail, the first call that I received, whenever I raised my hand and said there was a problem I wanted to work on [was from him,]” he says.

Both Rigato and Roginson say that they got 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 need with a hot meal, and when he and Rigato were debating the best ways to keep their staff safe and their businesses running through the global health crisis.

More recently, Idzikowski was on track to opening a takeout restaurant and commissary kitchen so he could expand. He was scheduled to meet with a realtor on Thursday last week to view a building in Livonia, but when his wife went to check on him, he was found unresponsive.

In addition to Kane, Idzikowski is survived by his mother Lori, father Tim, brother Zac and his wife Katie, and four nieces and nephews, and his sister Kelly.

A memorial in honor of Idzikowski’s life is scheduled for at 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at Batch Brewing, where the Detroit BBQ crew will be on hand making more of Idzikowski’s famous meats. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to the Detroit Dog Rescue or Focus Hope.

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