Did Someone Call the Hambulance?
food trailer brings an out-of-body BBQ experience
The Valley’s newest mobile food business is hitting the streets and promises to be finger-licking good. With his passion for barbecue and serving people, Ryan Jean-Baptiste teamed up with his wife, Laurie, and sister, Mona, to create Life Support BBQ and invest in their trailer, “The Hambulance.” (The names are inspired by Ryan’s job as an interventional radiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System.)
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Ryan completed his fellowship at the University of Michigan and knew the Midwest would be home sweet home. He and Laurie discovered Eau Claire with its atmosphere perfect for raising a family, and they began offering a catering business doing whole hog roasts for friends and the hospital. After working at the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, The Hambulance became a way to share his passion with a larger audience. Though it can go anywhere in Wisconsin, they chose the Valley because of the friendly community, educated consumers, and the fact that the food truck scene is still somewhat new.
The couple recruited Mona who, unlike her brother, had little interest in food as a career until she helped at Eaux Claires. The siblings discovered a natural synergy between them, and soon after, Mona left New York to join Ryan and Laurie on this adventure. Along the way, she discovered a great acuity for creative development and marketing in a welcoming city.
“I believe the nature of this community is such that everyone wants to see everyone else win,” Mona said. “Unlike in larger cities where competition and consumers can be cutthroat, Eau Claire is an actual family, and they seem more inclined to help the ‘little guy’ thrive.”
With a state-approved and inspected kitchen on wheels, they have all the tools for serving everything from burgers to whole hogs. At the heart of the trailer is the Myron Mixon 72 XC, a stick burning water smoker that only uses wood as a heat source and to flavor food.
“If we cook, we are out there feeding the fire all night with logs of either hickory, cherry, or oak wood,” Ryan said. “There are a lot of good ways to make barbecue, many of which are less labor intensive, but we think this way gives you the best product especially when you cook a whole hog.”
The team will uses as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, serving heritage pork – breeds such as Berkshire and Duroc – mostly from Deutsch Family Farms. Folks can expect traditional barbecue like pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and chicken along with something new with every visit.
“With my family being from Jamaica, I like to add my twist in things,” Laurie said. “For instance, one of the dishes Jamaica is known for is jerk chicken, which is a spicy smoky paste that you marinate the chicken in overnight and then grill it. You will see that as one of our specials this summer.”
With this, rotating specialties like pulled pork tacos, brisket grilled cheese, and barbecue bologna sandwiches will also be hitting the streets. (Rumor has it that pork belly burnt ends are coming to Taste of the Valley, and they are the bomb!)
The team hopes to increase daily vending opportunities and work at music festivals around the Valley and ultimately the state fairs. For now, they will be at Taste of the Valley, Family Day in Downtown, and at weddings and private engagements, using their love of barbecue to connect folks with each other.
“I think smoked pork is the essence of community,” Ryan said. “When you think about barbecue, it has always been about taking cuts of meat that most people didn’t want and turning them into something special. Usually the goal was to feed a lot of people for not a lot of money, so barbecue has always been about frugality, common sense, and not letting things go to waste, and I like that.”
Craving delicious pork? Check out Life Support BBQ’s website, pig-doctor.com, to track their whereabouts and place orders for corporate catering with drop-off delivery. With a menu promising traditional barbecue favorites and something new for your taste buds, this is a Hambulance you’ll want to see coming.