A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Mark Bedella

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Mark Bedella

People are constantly learning new things about themselves. Whether it’s something as big as realizing that parenthood isn’t so hard or as small as realizing you don’t like a certain type of food anymore, these revelations are important, and what we do with them is even more so. When Mark Bedella realized he was no longer happy with his career, he decided to take a risk and make a change, and for that, he is truly inspiring.

Bedella grew up in East Chicago and Highland and graduated from Highland High School. After graduating, Bedella spent a few years traveling to Grateful Dead concerts around the country. Once he had a family, though, he settled down in the transportation industry. 

Bedella was a transportation manager for quite a few years. He spent a lot of time away from home with work, but he was able to support his family, and that’s what counted. However, after COVID-19 hit, Bedella’s outlook on life completely changed. 

“We worked through COVID, and it wasn't easy. I had someone that was dear to me pass away during COVID, and that was the turning point for me in my life. I knew that I couldn't be in transportation anymore. I knew that I didn't want to be in transportation the rest of my life–I was burnt out and wanted to spend more time with my family,” said Bedella. 

The big question, though, was what was he going to do? Bedella had spent his whole life barbecuing–his stepdad taught him how to grill when he was young, and he’d always loved it. After visiting his daughter in Texas and seeing how live-fire barbecue was done down there, he decided that’s exactly what he should do: bring live-fire barbecue to Northwest Indiana. 

“I was just in Dallas trying out the barbecue, and it dawned on me that cooking with wood, live-fire barbecue, is just not done out here because it's not sustainable for the restaurants. It's tough being out all winter to do this, and you’ve got to have knowledge. Live-fire cooking with charcoal and wood is what I’ve always done, so I figured I could do that out here. I do it year round anyway, just on a smaller scale. So, that's what inspired me to do it,” said Bedella. 

Bedella got to work on his new business, Smoke on the Water. He found the smoker, found the truck, and found his suppliers, and since then, everything’s boomed. He travels all over the place for different events and couldn’t be happier. 

“We had a great year. I mean, we actually made profits. We made profits, probably four months in. I started covering all the bills, and then shortly after that, we started covering all the bills and making money too. I hired two employees, and it’s just been going from there,” said Bedella. 

Bedella’s favorite part of his job is seeing how happy his food makes people. 

“Watching people take a bite of my food and enjoy it, the sounds they make, and telling me it’s the best brisket they've ever had: that's what keeps me going. It's a lot of work–a good brisket takes 12 to 15 hours on a smoker– so it's a lot of love that goes into this food. Seeing people enjoy it is definitely one of the main reasons why I keep going,” said Bedella. 

Bedella is also excited about how much Smoke on the Water has allowed him to give back to the community.

“We’re always trying to give back to the community as much as we possibly can whether we're donating food, or donating briskets, or I'm just volunteering my time. I used to do a lot of service work before and did volunteer work at a homeless shelter in Gary for a good part of my life, and I’ve tried to instill those values in this business. The only way you're gonna find happiness or peace within yourself is to go out and volunteer,” said Bedella. 

Bedella has high hopes for the future. Eventually, he’d love to retire the food truck and have his own brick-and-mortar restaurant. Until then, however, he’s just happy to look after his family. 

“I want this thing to be successful. I want to be able to support my family on it. That's my goal for this year in 2023–make it sustainable. Not just cover all the bills, but support my family and have something for them,” said Bedella. 

Of course, none of this would have been possible if Bedella hadn’t taken that leap of faith and pursued something new. 

“You just have to do it. Life is short, and if there’s one thing that I've learned it’s that happiness is an inside job. All the money and work and all that other stuff isn't going to make you happy. You have to go for it and do what you love before time runs out,” said Bedella. 

Bedella is incredibly thankful for his wife and family for their endless support and love. He’s also incredibly grateful for his two employees who have been an immeasurable help to him in his journey. 

“The food truck business is not easy. I mean, it's long, long hours--sometimes we put in 18-hour days. I don't expect them to go as hard as I do, but they definitely try, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them this summer,” said Bedella. 

The next time you realize something important about yourself, don’t be afraid. Take that risk, make that jump–your life will be all the better for it.