New Ceres restaurant brings smoked barbecue and healthy eating together

How do you make a slab of pork ribs healthy?

OK, trick question, you can’t really. But, say you want a slab of pork ribs and your spouse wants tasty healthy food, now you have a place where you can both be happy and full. The new Fired Up Grill & Meal Prep in Ceres offers a yin-yang dining experience. On the one hand, they have Texas-style, slow-and-low smoked barbecue like beef brisket and pork ribs. On the other hand, they offer healthy meal prep options for people looking to lose weight.

The curious combination comes from valley residents and new business partners Mike Ferreira and Gia Smith. The two met last year while at The Camp Transformation Center, a weight-loss boot camp, and started talking about their future hopes and dreams. He had mentioned starting up a healthy meal prep business for people in the weight-loss program, and it grew from there. Ferreira has previously worked as a restaurant manager and most recently in purchasing for a local nursery. Smith is a nurse and CEO of American Advanced Management Group, which manages several hospitals.

Their Fired Up Grill opened last week on Mitchell Road, near the Walmart in Ceres, in the space that was once an El Rosal. The new decor is part eclectic barbecue joint, part sports bar with 26 TVs on the wall. Smith and Ferreira said they want families to be able to come out and share a great meal. As people who have gone through a weight-loss journey themselves (they’ve lost a combined 160 pounds in the last year and a half), they know eating out can be challenging for those in programs with restrictive diets.

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Owners Mike Ferreira, left, and Gia Smith at Fired Up Grill & Meal Prep at 1778 Mitchell Road in Ceres, Calif., Thursday, July 10, 2018.

Andy Alfaro

“We wanted to bring healthy food to a restaurant so people didn’t feel like they’re always stuck at home when it comes to eating,” Ferreira said. “When you have to cook yourself, it can get really boring. But people on strict diets need to be able to go someplace with their family where they can eat healthy and their kids or spouse can get burgers or whatever else.”

Their meal prep menu includes items like grilled buffalo chicken and ground chicken bowls with sides including brown rice, cilantro-lime quinoa, sweet potatoes, yams and steamed vegetables. They run about 250 to 300 calories each and are made with lower-carb ingredients and no butter or iodized white salt. The meal prep menu runs about $8 to $10 each, and can be ordered for takeout by subscription for about $100 to $120 a week for 14 meals.

The no-iodized salt carries over to its more indulgent meals as well. The restaurant uses pink Himalayan salt on all its dishes and in its on-table salt shakers because they said it does not cause water retention like its iodized counterpart. But the rest of the barbecue menu is more traditional. The restaurant smokes its pork and beef ribs, brisket and chicken using hickory wood. They also have a wood-burning grill, which uses mesquite chips for its burgers and chicken breast.

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BBQ Plate, smoked chicken, pork ribs, beef ribs, smoked beef brisket with mac & cheese, collard greens, baked beans and corn bread at Fired Up Grill & Meal Prep at 1778 Mitchell Road in Ceres, Calif., Thursday, July 10, 2018.

Andy Alfaro

Ferreira is the restaurant’s grill master and has adapted the recipes from his own experiments and cooking over the years. He uses his own 10-spice dry-rub blend on the meat and crafts the sauces from scratch as well. Sides range from fries to homemade mac and cheese, collard greens with smoked turkey, baked beans, coleslaw and corn on the cob. Entrees run about $16 to $19, depending on the meat.

After losing over 100 pounds himself, Ferreira said, the restaurant is an extension of his transformation. And it all started as a conversation with Smith last fall while working out.

“You are talking with people and making friends in a program, and all of a sudden you have a business,” he said.

Fired Up Grill & Meal Prep, at 1778 Mitchell Road Suite 206 in Ceres, is open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. For more information call 209-290-0555 or visit