Part of Drive My Way’s ‘Big Rigs and Barbecue’ Series
Marty Wickliff can grill anything. The company driver for TMC out of Des Moines, Iowa, learned to cook from his mom when he was a boy. He only improved from there.
Wickliff’s cooking skills were refined all the more at 16, when he got a job as a short-order cook at a navy base in Florida.
By the time Wickliff was 18, he was managing a Waffle House in Alabama. That’s where he honed his culinary chops most.
“The waitress would call out the order, and you had to remember it,” Wickliff recalls. “That job taught me how to time food preparation and get food out hot all at once.”
With the high volume at Waffle House, Wickliff learned to work quickly and memorize orders. It unleashed in him a passion for cooking on the fly. All these years later, that passion is still with him.
Wickliff’s culinary experience is diverse. In the years after Waffle House, he cooked at a five-star resort and attended culinary school for a time. While his dreams of becoming a chef weren’t to last, “I retained a lot of what I learned,” he says.
Wickliff took up truck driving nearly 6 years ago, after getting laid off from a factory job he had. His grandfather and former stepfather were both drivers, and Wickliff grew up observing them. “I always wanted to drive a truck, so I finally decided to do it,” he says.
While he sharpened his cooking skills as a mere teen, today, at 49, Wickliff is a true grillmaster. He’s read up a lot on the technique and learned even more from doing it himself. Wickliff drives with a little gas grill he bought at Wal-Mart. It allows him to eat healthy while on the road.
Wickliff grills steaks, ribs, hamburgers, vegetables, fish, you name it. “My go-to is steak, but if it goes on the grill without falling through the grates, it’s pretty much fair game,” he says.
Wickliff likes his steaks rare. He seasons them, then marinates them for 24 hours in Worcestershire sauce. When it’s time to cook his steak, he grills it for about three minutes, then flips it and cooks it for five minutes more. As an accompaniment, he often grills up vegetables on the side.
But Wickliff doesn’t stop at steaks. He also loves making boneless pork country-style ribs. Marinating them in 6 Pepper seasoning from Sam’s Club for 24 hours “gives the ribs a sweet and spicy bite,” Wickliff says. He also adds garlic powder and lemon pepper to the mix.
Wickliff sears his ribs on high heat, then turns the heat down to about 225 degrees and lets the ribs grill for a half hour. He tops them off with Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce and lets them cook with the sauce for 15 minutes more. To him, it’s all perfection.
“Mainly, I go back to what I learned in the restaurant business,” Wickliff says of his technique. “I’m pretty good at picking out meats. I drive solo, so I have to do all my prep work myself. To me, grilling is relaxing. Just to sit out here in my lawn chair and grill out and unwind, it’s a great way to end the day.”
All food images by Marty Wickliff; image of Marty Wickliff by Rachel Torres
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