Michael Baker has barbecue in his blood.
Originally from Florida, he inherited the secret sauce recipe and the family business, Baker Boys Southern Barbecue, running it in his home state after his father died. But his youngest son was born with a rare form of infant spasms similar to epilepsy that required extensive medical care and intensive personal attention. These financial and time constraints forced him to close his business while the stress ended his marriage, eventually leading to his becoming homeless.
Deciding on a new start, he began researching shelters around the country that could accommodate a homeless family located in a city with a dry climate where his son could receive the medical care needed. St. Elizabeth’s Casa Familia seemed to be a good fit, and after a few phone calls he made up his mind to move. So he sold his few possessions, gathered his two sons and took the train to Santa Fe.
He arrived in 2015 and Casa Familia’s staff went to work. They connected him with the doctors and specialists his son needed, as well as helping obtain employment, housing and benefits. As his son’s condition stabilized and he could put his life back together, Michael began catering private parties around town. But his overriding goal was to reopen his business and bring real southern barbecue to the City Different.
This past spring it all came together – the financing, the smoker, the food truck and the location. After a quick trip back South to purchase a supply of real southern oak for the smoking, Tha Smoke Shack opened at the corner of Cerrillos and St. Michael’s offering ribs, brisket, pulled pork and turkey legs to a growing clientele.