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The Food Truck Craze

food trucks

In recent years, food trucks have become a rapidly growing trend, as seen by several television series (The Great Food Truck Race, Food Truck Face Off, Food Truck Paradise) and many worldwide food truck events. Here in Plantation, FL., there is a local food truck event at Heritage Park every Tuesday night, in which several food trucks come from all over to serve to happy paying customers. Not only is it an interesting way to taste new, homemade, and often unique foods, but it is a simpler way that chefs and entrepreneurs are getting their businesses off the ground without the startup costs of a brick-and mortar-restaurant.

Yvonne

This is how our chef of the month, Yvonne Anderson-Thomas, got her start with Brown Shuga Soul Food. She started out selling baked goods at food festivals in Idaho and quickly moved on to operating a few food trucks selling her homemade Southern cuisine, complete with a flourishing catering business. This career move has proven to be a great decision on her part. Another great example of this success is Press Gourmet Sandwiches, which started out as a food truck, got featured on the Food Network, and now has a restaurant located in Fort Lauderdale, FL. This writer recommends “The Daily,” a sandwich featuring grilled chicken, brie, tomato, spinach, Applewood bacon, and apricot jam. Delicious!

If you are a chef or entrepreneur looking to break into this kind of business, Chef Uniforms is a great way to start browsing for professional chef coats and uniforms. Getting the right look, fit, and style is important. You can see for yourself what Yvonne Anderson-Thomas recommends to bring your chef attire to the next level.

Here are some tips and thoughts from Chef Yvonne herself if you are looking to start your own food truck:

  1. Everyone is not always happy with your success. Believe in Your dream.
  2. It’s hard to operate a truck year-round in a city that gets so cold during the winter that your water tank freezes up!
  3. Join a food truck association or start one. There is power in numbers.
  4. Make sure you buy a truck that fits your menu as far as the equipment you need.
  5. Give away free food in exchange for publicity every once in a while.
  6. It is more work than you can possibly imagine! This is not a job for lazy people, or people who want to retire or think it’s a get rich quick idea. It takes work and perseverance.
  7. Pay for quality equipment and marketing materials.

Good luck!

Chef Yvonne’s Path to Cooking

Chef Yvonne

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!

CHEF YVONNE ANDERSON-THOMAS SMOKED CHICKEN LEGS RECIPE

smoked chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 chicken legs
  • ¼ c. apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ c. water
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 c. wood chips

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, paprika, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Rub the spices all over the chicken and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to a day.
  2. Place the wood chips in the smoker (according to manufacturer’s instructions) and heat to 225 Place the chicken on the racks (bone-side down) and cook, turning halfway through, until the internal temperature is 165F, 2-3 hours.
  3. If you do not have a smoker: Remove the grill grates from one side of a gas grill and heat over medium-high heat. Tear 4 pieces of heavy-duty foil. Divide the chips between two pieces of foil, then sandwich with the other pieces. Fold over all of the edges to seal. Use a fork to poke holes in the top piece of foil. Place one foil package directly on the burner and let cook until the package begins to smoke, about 5 minutes. Let smoke for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low (the package should still be smoking).
  4. Place the chicken on the other side of the grill opposite the foil package, bone-side down (the chicken should be on the grill grates over the burners not in use). Cover the grill and cook, turning the chicken halfway through, until the internal temperature reaches 165F, 2-3 hours (if your grill has a temperature gauge, try to maintain 225-235F with the burners not directly under the chicken). If the foil packet stops smoking, replace with the second one, increasing the heat to get it smoking and reducing heat after it has started to smoke.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, ketchup, molasses, liquid smoke, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, 15-20 minutes. Brush over the cooked chicken. Or, if desired, before serving, increase grill to medium-high and grill the chicken, turning and basting with the sauce, until the skin is beginning to char, about 5 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!

Chef Yvonne

Chef Yvonne also sent us a picture of herself in her new chef coat from ChefUniforms.com. Thank you and congratulations again, Chef!

March 2016 Chef of the Month – Yvonne Anderson-Thomas

 Yvonne

  1. Where did you grow up?

I was born in New Brunswick, NJ, but I moved to Maryland after my grandmother passed away in 3rd grade. During my first year of college, I moved to Florida and lived there for 9 years. Once I got married, I moved with my husband to wherever the military stationed him. I was in Iceland for 2 years, followed by Germany for 4 years, and now I’m based in Idaho.

  1. Where do you work?

I do corporate events and catering in Idaho. I also drive a food truck called “Brown Shuga Soul Food” and teach culinary skills at a high school. During the holidays, I help out at the Boise Rescue Mission.

  1. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

Knives and mandolines. With a mandoline, you can make nice, uniform slices of carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. Having good knives and tools makes you way more effective in the kitchen. You have less accidents with sharp knives because you aren’t trying so hard to make the cut.

  1. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

Sense of taste – not everyone tastes their food as they cook, but they should. Sense of touch as well. I have what I call “hot hands” – I can pick things up that other people can’t.

  1. What advice would you offer aspiring chefs?

Lighten up. You will make mistakes, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Your training will always get you out of a pinch, so remember your training.

  1. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

Knife skills – know what knife to use for what job. Also, know how to make your “mother sauces”: your Consommé, Brown Sauce, and White Sauce.

  1. What does good food mean to you?

Food that doesn’t have to be expensive. Plain, down-home, country cooking!

  1. What trends do you see emerging in the near future?

Locally grown foods are big. A lot more microgreens are being used. Breweries and wineries are popping up everywhere. Sous-vide is becoming popular – the method of sealing your food in an airtight plastic bag and placing it in a water bath to cook.

  1. What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat (any particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)?

I like the poly/cotton blend, as well as mesh vents under the arms or on the back. I always wear long sleeves to protect my arms, and I have to have a pocket on the front of the coat.

  1. What is your go-to chef outfit? Do you prefer coats, tees, pants, shorts, aprons, hats, etc.?

Long sleeve chef coat, cargo pants, baseball cap, and tennis shoes. I always color-coordinate my shoes and hat.

  1. Favorite ingredient to work with?

Grits. I am a Southern girl at heart – I grew up eating grits with all my meals. I’m trying to get people in Idaho to embrace grits!

  1. Favorite city to dine out in?

Portland, OR – this is where food trucks started. Great restaurants there. I have to go to Voodoo Donuts every time before I leave.

  1. Best dish you have ever made?

Shrimp and grits, with collard greens.

  1. Place you eat most often on your days off?

I don’t dine out much. I cook a lot at home. I tend to be very critical of other peoples’ food. My favorite restaurant is Tucanos Brazilian Grill.

  1. Person you would most like to cook for?

President Obama, Bobby Flay, and Giada De Laurentiis.

  1. What made you decide to become a chef?

I’ve always had a passion for cooking. I started out baking custom cakes for military balls and decided to open my own bakery when I outgrew my kitchen. At first I just walked around with a basket of muffins, going to stores and seeing if my muffins would sell before opening my own restaurant. This was what I called a “muffin run”. I finally started my food truck in 2011 and love it. My favorite thing is seeing peoples’ reactions after taking their first bite.

  1. What is new on your DVR?

I don’t have a DVR, but I watch a lot of Netflix. I love The Great Food Truck Race, The Great British Bake Off, as well as Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, The Voice, and American Idol.

 

Stay Tuned for more from Yvonne, including recipes and tips! Congratulations to our Chef of the Month!

 

 

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