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Fresh food and family at the heart of new restaurant coming to Globe

“Behind every great son, is a mom who supports his dreams.” Anthony Puskaric, and his biggest supporter, mom Pamela Zoe, at a First Friday event in Globe. Photo by LCGross

Anyone in Globe who has tasted Anthony Puskaric’s food already knows what’s in store when he opens his Gila Hogs BBQ restaurant within the next few months: great barbecue with a strong foundation in family.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for my mom, but also my fiancé for being so supportive in my ventures,” Puskaric says. “And the people who believed in me who gave me the chance when they didn’t have to, but most importantly my children, who gave me the push to do better every day and to keep going.”

Puskaric has devoted his life to learning the finer points of barbecue and says that Gila Hogs BBQ—he cannot disclose the location just yet—will be a “fast casual dining experience with a family atmosphere/sports bar theme.”

He promises the freshest possible meats, including hamburgers that are ground fresh daily, as well as fresh-cut steaks and pork chops. Featured sides will include fresh-made coleslaw, potato salad, collard greens and cornbread.

“Our meats are all made in-house, from curing and slicing our own bacon, to making sausages,” Puskaric says. “We will also have a fresh meats display where you can buy fresh cuts to take home.”

In addition to his signature food items, he also plans on hosting cornhole tournaments and a teen night once a week and will recycle cans to donate money to sports and extracurricular activity programs for kids in the Globe-Miami area.

Gila Hogs promises something different for the culinary scene in Globe. Photo provided

But Puskaric’s story is not confined to the kitchen: It is one of tragedy mixed with determination to succeed despite the adversity life has thrown his way. 

At the age of 36, he is finally shedding the ghosts of his past and creating a new life with his fiancé Sierra Riddle, a Globe native who is expecting their first child sometime in January.

The child will not be Puskaric’s first though, as he already has 10 children, nine that he adopted beginning at the age of 25. While only one is his biological child, he also adopted his ex-wife’s two youngest children and then at the age of 31 adopted several foster kids and his ex’s two elder children.

He was a licensed foster care parent for five years and wants to reactivate his license once he gets his home set up in Globe.

“I love kids, man,” Puskaric says. “I also coached little league for five or six years. I coached all my boys and my oldest boy in middle school football as well.”

But his love of kids comes from a painful past he does not want to see other children go through.

Puskaric’s biological father, who he said he only met a few times, was in and out of prison most of his life before his death in 2019. He also has a sister serving a 25-year to life sentence for murder in an Oklahoma state prison.

What had a much more direct affect on his life though, was his biological mother who had a serious drug problem and committed suicide at home when he was 13 years old. Her partner Pamela Zoe, who he refers to as his mom, continued to raise him and teach him about cooking and about life.

“My biological mother’s drug use and dragging me around on her adventures when I was young taught me what I didn’t wanna do in life,” Puskaric says. “It was a very hard time in my life. I started working for people in the neighborhood the week she died and have been working ever since to keep my mind sane.”

He considers raising kids his main job, particularly those that may not have had a chance to live in a loving home.

“I’m proud of who I am because of all this and that I didn’t fall into the ‘statistics’,” he says.

In addition to his love for the family he’s created, food has always been at the heart of Puskaric’s salvation.

Anthony Puskaric credits his mom Pamela Zoe and his fiancé Sierra Riddle for his success as a chef and restaurateur. Pictured (l-r): Pamela Zoe, Anthony Puskaric and Sierra Riddle. Photo provided

“He was pretty much on a stool in the kitchen since he was about four years old, wanting to cook,” Pam Zoe says. “I was in the restaurant business for about 45 years and he was there the whole time, learning.”

Zoe has spent her professional life in the food industry. A native of Palm Springs, California, she graduated from the San Francisco Culinary Institute about 40 years ago, but came to Payson when Puskaric was three or four years old.

She worked at the Oaks Restaurant in Payson, as well as her own cafe, but when the owner of the building announced his intention to sell, Zoe took a position with Kentucky Fried Chicken, where she spent 27 years in management.

In the early days, as Puskaric continued to show his interest in becoming a cook, Zoe was happy to encourage his passion for food.

“He always used to take over the barbecue when he was eight or nine and I’d say ‘oh come on!’,” Zoe says. “But he was always with me. He worked in my little cafe and we made breakfast pizza before breakfast pizza was invented and huge burritos for breakfast before they were a big deal. He learned a lot of that and I’m really proud of him.”

After Zoe took a job at a barbecue place in Payson, Puskaric, at the age of 14, started experimenting with the finer points of barbecue, from the type of wood he uses to creating sauces and sides that were tasty, but not overpowering.

In the meantime, he went to work for Gila County Animal Control, where he spent 16 years as an animal control officer.

But the fire in his belly to have a restaurant continued to burn. In 2018, he opened a restaurant in Rye, which turned into a family affair with his kids helping out where they could.

Two of Puskaric’s daughters, Hailey (left) and Delannie, help out with the Gila Hogs BBQ truck. Puskaric calls them the “backbone of Gila Hogs” when he had a full-time job as an animal control officer for Gila County. Hailey is in the Navy as a corpsman Delannie is in cosmology school. Photo provided

But that effort was short-lived. His first marriage ended, and he was forced to abandon the project.

Three years ago, Puskaric decided to try out the food truck and has never looked back. In addition to showing up at events throughout Payson and Globe and carrying on a robust catering business, Gila Hogs BBQ has crisscrossed the state and is a mainstay at Globe’s First Friday. 

The truck can also be found in the Walmart parking lot in Claypool, where he sets up Wednesday through Saturday.

In his continued efforts to make a difference in his community, Puskaric held his first toy drive over the holidays and collected nearly 500 donated toys to distribute locally.

“We hosted an event at the Train Depot where we gave out a free Christmas dinner and a toy or two to each child that came through,” Puskaric says. “It was an absolutely amazing experience to see their faces when they came through.”

He credits Molly Cornwell and Tommy Thompson, in part, for the event’s success. Cornwell helped get the space donated, and the couple covered additional expenses out of their own pockets.

Puskaric also thanks the City of Globe for the help he received in setting up his business and for the exposure he gained from participating in First Friday.

Ultimately though, he credits Zoe for giving him the tools in life to deal with adversity and keep moving forward. She won’t be involved in the business beyond tasting the food and calling Puskaric out when he needs it.

“He’s a good human from the inside, for the most part,” Zoe says. “But I gotta keep him in check sometimes.”

Puskaric expects to open sometime in March or April and offer something unique in the Globe restaurant scene.

“We’re gonna create a family atmosphere where people can come to hang out,” Puskaric says. “It’s just gonna be a fun, fun place to come. It’s gonna be modern and it’ll be something Globe doesn’t have.”

Puskaric and his fiancé Sierra Riddle display an award for best taco at an event in the Valley with his daughter Henslie Puskaric.

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