Biker Jim busts out a bread haiku, bemoans boba and spills details on a new brick-and-mortar
This is part one of my interview with Biker Jim, chef-owner of Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs. Part two of our banter will run in this space tomorrow.
"I'm too young to have this much history," quips the 54-year-old Army brat who was born in California and bumped around Morocco and Spain, Omaha and Albuquerque, Alaska and Boulder before eventually settling in Denver, where he's become a national phenomenon, all thanks to a hot dog cart that grew into a sausage-slinging empire with multiple carts, a tricked-out food truck, a brick-and-mortar and another storefront in the pipeline.
Not bad for a former repo man who spent his youth as a self-described "asshole drug addict" and eighteen years in Boulder repossessing pickup trucks and Pintos before launching his booming wiener business on the 16th Street Mall.
But Jim Pittenger, aka Biker Jim, was always intrigued by food and cooking. "My mom was a pretty shitty cook, so food wasn't that important, but she belonged to the cookbook-of-the-month club for thirty years, and because I didn't like the way she cooked, I started reading her cookbooks as a teenager, and that's how I got started in the kitchen," says Pittenger, who recalls making oyster-stuffed steaks, wilted spinach salad and Grand Marnier soufflé out of a Vincent Price cookbook.
But at fifteen, while he was living in Alaska, his parents booted him not just out of their kitchen, but out of the family home -- "I was a terrible kid," confesses Pittenger -- and his on-the-cheap diet (mostly ramen and eggs) forced him to improvise. "I did what I could to make the eggs taste better by making Saltine-cracker omelets -- I could steal the Saltines from restaurants -- and my dinner was nearly free," he jokes. He eventually got a stinky job shoveling fish at a fish-processing plant in Anchorage, but after months of reeking like ocean scum, he jumped ship. "I smelled so horrible that I couldn't ride the bus -- they kicked me off -- and I couldn't hitchhike for the same reason, but I could stand my pants up and drape my shirt over the top," he deadpans.