Ralph Zarker knows a thing or two about Texas barbecue.

The 53-year-old Copperas Cove resident has been cooking, experimenting and perfecting his recipes since he began barbecuing in high school. Now the new owner of Aaron’s Smoke House in Copperas Cove, Zarker hopes to introduce Central Texas to his take on a Texas tradition.

“We make traditional barbecue here,” he said. “It’s not fancy, we don’t want the traditional stuff to fall to the wayside.”

Zarker, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Trish, spent 20 years in the United States Air Force before deciding to transition into his new role as a restaurateur.

“This has always been a passion of mine,” Zarker said. “I’ve been doing this from my high school days and all throughout my career in the military.”

The military guys seemed to like my cooking, so when I left the Air Force this just seemed like a good thing. But one thing is for sure, I definitely work a lot harder and longer as a restaurant owner and operator than I ever did with my time in the military.”

Originally, opened in 2000, Aaron’s Smoke House has been a mainstay for Copperas Cove barbecue lovers for more than a decade.

“My wife and I took over Aaron’s on May 1 and reopened May 7,” Zarker said. “So many people around Copperas Cove knew about Aaron’s, so when we took over we decided to keep the name the same but use our own recipes… so far it’s been an enjoyable experience.”

Zarker and his wife already have their eyes set on the future.

“These past few months have really been a learning experience,” he said. “We’re trying to get good at all of the little stuff before we start talking about expanding, but that is our goal. Someday we want to grow, hire some employees, and maybe even begin catering.”

We’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’ll get there.”

Aaron’s Smoke House is at 414 E. Avenue D, Copperas Cove.

Herald/Erik Papke​

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