Bakersfield Life Article

Mike Ariey


Mike Ariey, former NFL offensive tackle who played for the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, has been barbecuing since he was a student at San Diego State. After a few years in the league, Ariey came back home to Bakersfield and opened a retail athletic store that he co-owned with his mother and one of his brothers. But he found his true calling when he was asked to cater a wedding reception for another brother in 2003, which turned out to be a huge success. Ariey is owner and head chef of Big Mike’s Ragin’ BBQ, a local catering business he started 13 years ago.

When he’s not barbecuing tri-tip, chicken or pork ribs, Ariey enjoys working out, wine tasting and visiting the Central Coast with his family.


“Cooking created a new challenge for me. It never gets boring, and I love creating new dishes. On a beautiful day, barbecue is the way to go,” said Ariey.


My first experience on a grill: It was at San Diego State as a student athlete. We grilled whenever and whatever we had; money was tight.


I grill at home: At least twice a week with a good red zinfandel.


Favorite piece of cooking equipment: My rubber gloves — they are flexible on the grill and can sure handle the heat.


My ideal summer barbecue: Baby back ribs, garlic chicken, Big Mike’s Ragin’ beans, assorted salads and grilled vegetables. Also, fresh baked honey cornbread, raspberry tea, lemonade and a frosty Cadillac margarita.


Must-haves in the kitchen: A sharp knife, garlic press, saute pan, whisk, Thermo Spatula and Cuisinart.


My go-to cookbook: The Internet.


Everything goes better with: A nice glass of red zinfandel.

Always in the fridge: Gatorade, Diet Pepsi, assorted cold cuts and yesterday’s take out.

Disaster barbecue story: I did not put the coal out properly, so on the way home I thought the vehicle was on fire!

Marinade or rub: Always start with a great rub! Garlic and brown sugar are a great starting point.

Charcoal or wood: Charcoal with a small amount of mesquite. Charcoal burns evenly and mesquite adds to the flavor profile. They are a great combination.

I always mess up: Trying to do everything myself.

I rock at making: Bacon-wrapped jalapeno shrimp and garlic chardonnay-grilled chicken.

One of my barbecue secrets: Let the meat be the star of the show — always leave sauce on the side.

I can never find: A clean apron! They don’t last long and disappear with the help.

Spice cabinet must-have: Granulated garlic, salt and pepper, chili powder, oregano, paprika and dry parsley.

Ingredients I dislike: I am a food guy. I like everything!

Items I buy in bulk: Beef and poultry products, charcoal, beans, salad and paper goods.

If I could spend the day with a famous chef, it would be: Anthony Bourdain because people say we resemble each other.

Advice I would ask Bourdain: Should I focus on opening a new restaurant or continue a successful catering career?


Favorite local restaurant: Uricchio’s Trattoria! I order osso bucco, garlic mashed potatoes and green beans.


Best food memory: Seven-course meal at Cafe Firenze, an Italian restaurant and martini bar in Moorpark.

Best culinary destination: Tuscany, a region in Italy.

Favorite cooking show to watch: Ina Garten — she makes cooking look so easy!

Most surprising food I’m not crazy about: Lamb.

Weirdest food I like: Anchovies … great on pizza.

My go-to cocktail: Bill Lee’s 747... Wow!

How I like my steak: Medium rare.

Favorite barbecue sauce: Big Mike’s Ragin’ sauce.

Favorite condiment: Hot Irish mustard and anchovy paste.

I’m addicted to: Grilling oysters with Highland heather honey.

My comfort food is: Cioppino — a seafood stew.

Local restaurant I want to eat at that I haven’t yet: Eureka! Burger.

Splurge at the grocery store: Anything sweet.

Ideal midnight snack: Root beer float.

Single tastiest thing I’ve eaten: Mussels at Luigi’s.

Favorite food discovery: A mango, butter, garlic, cilantro glaze on grilled lobster.