Stan Krolick grew up on a dairy farm in Arcade and was a high school wrestler before he became a welder. Krolick was hanging drywall on a construction job in 1990 when he fell and injured his back. The accident, he said, opened the door to a future in barbecue. Eight years later, the floods that devastated his hometown sealed the deal.
Krolick’s Bar-B-Q was launched as a way to help raise funds for his flood-ravaged neighbors in Arcade. Today Krolick employs more than 15 people in his catering business located in Yorkshire on three acres of land where customers can bring blankets for a country picnic.
Krolick, 47, said he always wanted to be a cook. He credits his wife, Cyndy, with sparking a desire to help others. Along the way in 2008 Krolick reserved a place in the Guinness World Records book for his blistering pace of fish fry service.
This weekend signals the start of barbecue season for the Krolicks and their two children, Jacob and Sarah. They’ll keep watch over the chicken and pray it doesn’t rain.
People Talk: You really took to chicken.
Stan Krolick: I always wanted to be a cook after I was disabled, but going to culinary school was out of the question. So I borrowed grilling equipment in the beginning, and then I invented the stuff I needed. I never thought I would have started the business. I never dreamt it in a million years.
PT: What’s the best thing you’ve done with a welding torch?
SK: The flame thrower when we were doing our world record. Everybody was nervous because we knew it was going to be busy, and we started to put too many fish in. It dropped the temperatures way too low. That’s where I had to get down and do something. So I took a big torch and built the temperature of the oil back up.
PT: What’s the secret to a well-barbecued chicken?
SK: It’s being on top of the chicken and paying attention. My guys, they stand over the chicken. Every chicken is checked after 45 minutes to be at the right temperature – no pink – just moist chicken. Then you flip the chicken over the high heat. It’s something I learned over the years: Treat your chicken like you would treat your baby – with tender loving care. And don’t turn your back.
PT: What’s better than a barbecue?
SK: Well, I can’t say beer because I don’t drink. I really enjoy almost any type of barbecue whether it’s ribs or chicken or pulled pork. We go as far as barbecuing our filet mignon tips. I have a huge barbecue pit – 30-foot-long – on wheels. We have enough portable equipment that we can cook more than 3,000 chickens at a time, and be done in an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half.
PT: Aren’t you sick of chicken?
SK: I eat a chicken barbecue every Sunday. You have to make sure you’re doing the best that you can. I love Chinese food. My dream before I started my barbecue stand was to have a buffet-style restaurant. That didn’t pan out, so an opportunity arose to buy a barbecue stand out in Yorkshire. For the first two years we only opened on Sundays.
PT: Is there any food you can’t barbecue?
PT: Tell me what led to your Guinness world fish fry record.
SK: Believe it or not, the guy in charge of the Polish Heritage Festival, Jim Jozwiak, suggested it to me, and fish frys are something I wanted to get into. The first year we did it we had a major rainstorm. We were at 800 dinners, so that was basically our warm-up try.
PT: Why did you start your barbecue business?
SK: The main reason was to help other people raise funds because when I was hurt for so long people helped me out. But all of a sudden the people who had eaten the food started calling me, wondering if we catered parties. One thing I did when we started the business – my wife didn’t really like it because I’d be all greasy – I would ask the people how they liked the food.
PT: What could ruin a barbecue?
SK: Rain. You have to be prepared in every way possible to make sure that if it rains you don’t lose your fire. We’ve been through tornadoes. We’ve been through lightning storms. That was my mom’s biggest thing, worrying about rain because then we would get stuck with chicken. She was always praying it wouldn’t rain.
PT: You use charcoal, right?
SK: Everything is charcoal. In the last two weeks I’ve spend over $7,000 on charcoal. I use hardwood charcoal. It gives consistent heat, and it doesn’t lose its heat. You don’t have to sit there and knock the ash off. Some charcoal will just ash up. That’s how people fire walk – just so you know. When they show people walking on hot coals? They always do it at night so you can see the glow. But you can actually hold a briquet in your hand because the ash from the charcoal loses heat. I would like to see them walk on my charcoal.
PT: Your workers must melt.
SK: On a 90-degree day I have extra people out there because over the fire it’s 150 degrees. It’s so unbearable that if I know it’s going to be a 90-degree day I make the guys take a salt packet with a bottle of water. It helps keep them hydrated. You can drink water all day and still get dehydrated. You need a little bit of salt.
PT: Will your son take over the business?
SK: He’s got other plans. His dream is to become a college track coach. He ran at Edinboro for four years, and then he went to Adams State. My daughter also goes to Edinboro. She’s ranked 10th in the 10,000 meter and 21st in the 5,000 meter. I have two children and they’re both runners.
PT: What do you do for fun?
SK: Watch our kids in college track meets.
PT: How big is your heart?
SK: Today I would do anything for anybody, but growing up more of life was about Stan Krolick and not anyone else. My wife was the person who always gave. She taught me how important it is to give.
PT: What’s your preferred charity?
SK: The Response to Love Center with Sister Mary Johnice. Our leftovers are always donated there. Her cause grabbed me.