Detroit BBQ Company pitmaster Tim Idzikowski dies at 36

The chef, restaurant and barbecue scene in metro Detroit is mourning the loss of one its pit masters, known for making some of the best barbecue.

Tim Idzikowski, 36, owner and co-founder of Ferndale-based Detroit BBQ Company, died Thursday, his wife,  Tracey Kane, said. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Idzikowski was known for his skill and craft as an expert in barbecuing. His food truck was popular at events like the annual Ferndale Pig & Whiskey festival. Kane said the festival is where the couple first met. The outdoor summer event celebrates barbecue, whiskey and onstage music.

“He was loyal and generous,” Kane said. “He would give you the shirt off his back. He loved our two dogs, Ruthie and Mo Mo.”

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Idzikowski hired kids with autism and would patiently work with them, Kane said. He was known for his generosity in providing food to those in need, Kane said, as well as to many food causes, friends and sick pets.

Originally from Fair Haven, Michigan, Idzikowski honed his barbecue and meat-smoking skills on his own. According to the Detroit BBQ Company website, Idzikowski started out with his brother Zac and another friend selling ribs and chicken in 2009 at the Grosse Pointe farmers market, mostly to earn beer money. Things went well and the owners expanded their barbecue knowledge, learning to make pulled pork and other barbecue items.

Together they built a catering business and bought a food truck.

“He did tons of weddings, grad parties, birthday parties and everything,” Kane said. “This winter, he stood out in front of our house making sure” a pig was roasted “for a memorial service for a guy who always wanted to have one.”

Kane said that although the pandemic upended Idzikowski’s work as festivals and events were canceled or went virtual, Idzikowski didn’t let it get him down. He started doing curbside service and bringing the food truck to neighborhoods.

“He was so worried about keeping his workers paid. He had people that depended on him. He didn’t take that lightly. He made sure they were paid a living wage and made sure they were taken care of,” Kane said.

Metro Detroit chefs took to social media to express condolences and sorrow over the news.

Brendon Edwards, co-founder and owner of Metropolitan Kitchen and Bar in Detroit’s West Village neighborhood, wrote in a Facebook post that Idzikowski’s passing was a loss.

“He reached out to me many times to offer support, more often than most. Offering his services for our wedding, coming to brunch/popups, and sending messages regularly. Man. What a loss. He could be blunt, maybe a bit crass but I always saw him as sincere. He called people out on their BS and gave shout-outs to some great people without request. Not many people could have such a big personality and drive, and still seem so human.”

Chef Matthew McGrail, co-owner and executive chef at the Cork and Gabel in Corktown, knew Idzikowski through the restaurant business.

“Tim was a funny, loud and opinionated guy who quite literally made the best BBQ I’ve ever had. He never had an issue trying to help someone with advice on how to achieve great BBQ, which most failed to make it to his level, and he was always willing to help out. “

Reva Constantine of Great Lakes Culinary Center said, “Tim hands down had the best Texas BBQ in Michigan and we ordered it all the time!”

On the Pig & Whiskey Facebook page, Idzikowski was remembered as the “heart and soul behind Detroit BBQ Company and that he was a pillar in the community. Like most things in his life, nobody took BBQ more seriously, or had more fun doing it, than Tim. At every Pig and Whiskey since we began, nobody had a longer line of awaiting customers, or a greater number of satisfied customers.”

Idzikowski is survived by his wife; parents, Tim and Lori Idzikowski; Zac and his wife Katie; his sister Kelly Idzikowski; and nieces and nephews Zachary, Zoey, Zara and Zane.

No funeral arrangements have been made at this time.

A celebration of his life, according to the Detroit BBQ Company, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at Batch Brewing Company in Corktown.

“(The Detroit BBQ Company) staff has once again stepped up and we will provide food. If you feel the urge to tip them, Tim would have loved that,” Kane wrote. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to either Focus: HOPE or Detroit Dog Rescue.

Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky and send food and restaurant news to: Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.

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