Low and Slow from Christchurch to Tokyo

Tristan and Nathan looking to camera inside Smokey T's.

Tristan and Nathan Anderson

Smokey T’s is the work of pitmaster Tristan (‘T’) Anderson and brother Nathan Anderson. Nat refers to his bro as “The Dan Carter of NZ BBQ” and if you’ve been to their Cashel Street joint, you know what he’s talking about.

T does things low and slow and the end results (we’re talking ribs, brisket, chicken, links and more) are seriously delicious. Served up in a laid back, family friendly atmosphere it’s no surprise that Smokey T’s earned the People’s Choice in the 2019 Christchurch Hospitality Awards.

Interview: Olivia Sisson
Photo: Nancy Zhou

How did Smokey T’s get going?

T: I’ve been a chef for many years. I never really wanted to have my own restaurant until I found BBQ and started participating in competitions and winning prizes. That really rekindled the passion I’d had for food at the start of my career. I love seeing people engage with this food.

What’s working with your brother like?

N: Working together is awesome. Growing up we were always talking about doing something together but never really knew what. One day Trist called me up and said “I’ve found it.” It was perfect timing because I was moving back from Japan the following week. I’d been away playing professional rugby there for about 15 years. The first day I was back in Christchurch we went to Bunnings and got a wee smoker. At 4:30 in the morning we pulled the first pork belly and rack of ribs off and said “Yes, we’ve got it now!”

Everyone has their own BBQ philosophy, what’s yours?

T: We start with West Coast Beech. That supports our smokey flavours and then we use the highest quality ingredients we can get our hands on. That second step can be a challenge. Once we found the best meat, we wanted/needed a lot of it. Recently we secured a contract with Ocean Beef. Their beef is raised in Ashburton and grain fed for 160 days before being exported overseas. We’ve secured some of the best beef in the world now but we still sell it at the BBQ price point. I think that’s why so many people love our food.

What does a great day at Smokey T’s look like?

N: Just a ton of families dining in together and enjoying. We have a really cool and varied clientele which is awesome. During the lunch rush you’ll find the suits on one side, friends catching up and families from all over the world all enjoying our BBQ. There’s a real community buzz here.

T: Just full of families enjoying and leaving feeling rewarded and like their expectations have been exceeded. We’re all about making sure the food we serve tastes even better than the Instagrams of it.

How often do you guys eat BBQ?

N: Well since we added the big upstairs addition me and T are going six days a week which is pretty full on. I still eat BBQ at least once a week though. We remix all the menu items back in the kitchen, off menu type of combinations. You’d think we’d get sick of it but we don’t. I wish I could come in totally unaccustomed to what’s here and experience the whole thing as if it were new to me.

What’s next for Smokey T’s?

T: I said to Nat that once we had the upstairs space sorted and shaking with people we could relax and have a beer. It’s definitely shaking now but we’ve still got big goals.

N: We’re franchising Smokey T’s in Tokyo. We were meant to open the first one in July but that’s been pushed back due to COVID. It’ll be a little different but we’ve thought about it a lot because you’ve really got to trust someone to handle the smoker and the meats and to create an experience that does what we do in NZ justice. We’ve got the Dan Carter of NZ BBQ here. Trist just knows exactly when to pull things off, he knows all the right temperatures, it’s a real knack. He’s trained one of our guys and someone who has come over from Japan to open our first spot over there. 

T: We’ve also got some other projects in the pipeline like offering our sauces, rubs and glazes wholesale.

You guys have a lot on, how do you keep all in the air?

T: We’ve got the right people behind us. They’re in the right areas and want to be around, everyone brings something to the table and makes it work here.