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Lip-smacking BBQ Coming to Fitchburg

November 6, 2018

Scott Tefft stands in the space where he will be opening a new BBQ restaurant in Fitchburg at Parkhill Plaza and talks about his vision. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- Pit Master Scott Tefft bought a southern-style meat smoker 20 years ago, launching a journey into the carnivorous cuisine that will see him opening a barbecue restaurant in the city by the end of the year.

At the time, it was hard to find a great rack of ribs or pile or pulled pork anywhere in the state, he said.

“Twenty years ago there was no barbecue anywhere,” Tefft said Thursday at what will be the location of the first bricks-and-mortar restaurant spun off of his Worcester-based food truck, Big T’s Jerky House and BBQ.

He expects to open the restaurant in the former Doughnutty’s in Parkhill Plaza in the next two months.

On Thursday, the interior of the restaurant was bare, but before long it will serve pulled pork, ribs, spicy chicken and other types of barbecue alongside comfort-food sides.

Tefft explained his journey into the competitive world of barbecue. About two decades ago, he was employed as a corrections officer in Worcester County, and after buying the smoker spent weekends experimenting with spice rubs and cuts of pork and beef.

“We screwed up a lot of them, trust me. We screwed up a lot of ribs and pork butts and briskets until we got the right recipe,” he said.

The practice laid the foundation for his first barbecue restaurant, Wood Fired BBQ, that opened in Worcester in 2003. The timing of its opening wasn’t quite right, said Tefft, as he and his partners were still working full time for the state.

Wood Fired BBQ closed in 2006, but Tefft never stopped making barbecue. He opened a family-run catering business and food truck dubbed Big T’s Jerky House & BBQ, which became a mainstay at events across North Central Massachusetts.

Big T’s pulled pork won the top prize in the category at the Wachusett Mountain BBQFest for the past four years in a row, said Tefft. Last year, its chili also took home the prize at the competition.

“Barbecue has taken me many, many, many years to get to where I am now, and it’s such a skilled art that it’s not any cook or not any chef can just pick up the reins and run,” he said.

Tefft describes his barbecue as southern-style, but added that his flavorings could place him in the emerging discipline of New England barbecue.

It’s slightly sweeter than its southern cousin, inspired by the honeys and maple syrup produced in the region.

“We’re from New England, we like our Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, which is very sweet,” he said. “We have different taste buds up here.”

Tefft is opening the restaurant with his brother, Bob, in a city where he had his first experience working with food. He worked as a meat cutter at Watson’s Market on Pearl Street in the 1970s, when it was owned by his uncle, Ed Costello.

He hopes to have outdoor seating open by spring. Once up and running, Tefft said he plans to keep operating his food truck, but on a more limited basis. Tefft also works as a restaurant consultant, most recently helping open Hangar 12 restaurant in Mansfield.

He said he chose to open his new restaurant in Fitchburg because he saw an unmet need for local eateries.

“There’s not a lot of restaurants so when this one came up I was interested,” he said.

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