Yvonne Anderson-Thomas, our Chef of the Month for March 2016, found both a solace and an unexpected, life-changing solution in cooking. She was willing to reveal her amazing story with us, so that we could share it with all of our readers. Once she had divorced her husband of twenty years, she was uncertain of her next steps. She had gone to school for nursing, but never finished her degree. Instead, drawing from her previous experience managing a bakery, she threw on her chef coat and started selling her baked goods at food festivals. Once she realized this wasn’t getting her quite far enough, she resorted to an old family recipe instead – smoked turkey legs. After some initial success and a very generous loan from a friend, Yvonne started her own food truck and dubbed it Brown Shuga. Suddenly she became very busy tending to three events a day, she enlisted several friends, seasonal employees, and volunteers to help get her business off the ground.
But running a food truck is expensive. It’s not just the ingredients and the cooking she’d have to worry about, but the licensing, any extra fees, prep tables, freezer, cookers, utensils, various other equipment, and managing the truck itself. Fortunately, Yvonne discovered a woman’s shelter that would allow her to park in its lot. She repaid this act of generosity in food and donated tips.
Soon enough, Brown Shuga grew to include many recipes in the soul-food and Southern comfort tradition. Yvonne added another food truck to help keep up with the demand for her cooking. There were a few setbacks along the way – including the truck’s burst pipes during the winter months – but Yvonne persevered. She fondly recalls her proudest moment during this time: “Finally, when I said, ‘Brown Shuga Soul Food,’ people knew the name, and it made me feel so good.” Now, five years later, she has received numerous accolades and awards, including one for Best Food Truck, acknowledged by the Idaho Statesman.
In retrospect, Yvonne admits her professional trajectory has been quite surprising. She never imagined she’d been running her own food trucks. However, back when she was married, she often found herself cooking for functions on the military bases her husband was stationed at. She recalls how she experimented and experimented until she arrived at the perfect recipes for her signature cornbread and ribs. In the end, these years relocating from base to base was a true test to her and her resourcefulness. “I feel like I have succeeded in letting people know who I am,” Yvonne concludes.
Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing this story with us! It is certainly inspiring, and we hope our readers will feel the same!