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Food truck manager and chef: How I got my job and where I'm going

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My grandmother cooked a lot and she also baked a lot. And she did it not only for our family but for like her church, and different people. So I always enjoyed whenever people would come over where they would talk about her food and it just seemed, people loved it. It made everybody so happy. I think so from there I decided I wanted to I wanted to become a chef. And I used to watch cooking channels all the time that was like my favorite, that was my favorite activity like from a really young kid. That's all I watched was the Food Network. I didn't come from a wealthy family at all. Like not even in the tiniest, the least aspect of that. My family is very poor. And I knew that I wanted to go into a career and do something that would help me to not be I never wanted to be poor, ever. As a kid, I never wanted to go to college. Because I saw other people in my family like go to college and some people didn't finish. But then they left with all this debt and it became like a big burden for their families. So I didn't want that for myself and I didn't want it for my mom or my dad. I didn't want anyone to have to I didn't want to be a burden to anyone. So I decided that I want to go to vocational high school. Madison Park, it was in my neighborhood. And I knew all about it. And, I wanted to study culinary arts. Because I just wanted to get out and become a chef and start making money of my own and I didn't want to go to college. However (laughs) when I got to, when I was at Madison Park I entered into a cooking competition. With a program that was called Sea Cap. And, the program ended up shutting down but the woman that was there who I was working with Toni Elka, she ended up starting another organization called Future Chefs. And then so in my senior year I was a part of the first graduating class of Future Chefs. And, Toni really took a mentoring role in my life. And she opened me up to like a lot of different opportunities that were really great. And one of them being I received the scholarship to go to Southern New Hampshire University. So I ended up actually going to school. I didn't want to, they had to talk me into it. I was still not gonna go even with the scholarship. I did my associates degree in culinary arts. And, I ended up continuing on for my bachelors degree in hospitality management. The biggest thing and the thing that I'm most thankful for for going to school was I learned a lot about myself. And I learned a lot about people. And I also learned a lot about marketing. Which was, those are kind of the three biggest things that I took away from my college experience. When I graduated from Southern New Hampshire University I ended up teaching full-time at Future Chefs. So I ended up right back where I started. (laughs) I was teaching at Future Chefs and I did that for about two years while also working at The Sea Port Hotel which was the connection through Future Chefs. And then also on Sundays I was playing with the idea of managing a restaurant so I was managing brunch at a restaurant in Boston. And it was just also a connection through Future Chefs so Future Chefs is kind of just like a constant in my life. After two years of working with Future Chefs I had stopped working because my mom had gotten really sick. So I took some time off to be with her. And then after she had eventually passed away I didn't go back to Future Chefs. I kind of took some time to see what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to go. Because I did love the teaching aspect of it. But I hate paperwork. (laughs) So it was a little bit too much of that for me so I knew it just wasn't that wasn't my career path. But I learned so much from being there. And I ended up going to study I got my real estate license. So I was off to become a real estate guru. (laughs) And then I just got swept away and came onto Jamaican Mi Hungry full-time. Because I had time during my day and I was supposed to take the truck out every Thursday from May 'til June. And a few Mays and Junes have passed since then. Ernie started Jamaican Mi Hungry he and I met when we were working, we were both working at the Sea Port Hotel in Boston. And we just ended up having a conversation and realizing that we both had an interest in food trucks. I was still in school at the time and in my head I was just trying to plan my whole life and figure out what it is that I was gonna do. And food trucks were one of the big ideas that I had. I was interested in learning more about them and getting some more information about them and I was, I learned that he was currently working on a food truck to get some more information because he was also interested in the business, as well. So he ended up starting his catering company and doing private events. So I was coming to help him out every once in awhile once I got out of school. And then it kind of blossomed because he ended up getting a catering van which was very well-built for catering. But then people saw the van on the street and they started calling for food truck events. So the truck as nice as it is, is not meant for food truck events. (laughs) So, he was like, had to go out and serve like a few hundred people, I think like 400 people on this little tiny truck in the little back of the van where he can only fit back there. So we just kind of, the food truck had to come that was the next step. So once the food truck did come I kinda took the lead on that and it was pretty cool. But just as a base if you're going into a food truck I don't necessarily believe that there are any specific certifications that you need in order to do it. It's more about your experience and you as a person. If you're managing a food truck you have to have a peddlers license. So there has to be a peddlers license for each person. So right now, at first we had one truck so we only needed one peddler's license. So only Ernie had the license. But now we have two trucks so we have to have two peddler's licenses. So he and I both have one now. You have to have a cert safe certification. And you also have to have an allergen certification. Cert safe is just all about food safety handling. And then the allergens certificate is how to deal with people with specific dietary food allergies or dietary restrictions. So like if someone comes to the truck making sure you're not gonna cross-contaminate anything. Like if someone has a gluten intolerance or they have Celiac's disease like making sure that you're not mixing something that may not contain gluten like our rice. But maybe use the spoon for like the Jerk chicken or something that does contain gluten. And then you just made someone sick. (laughs) When I first came here I can say that Ernie was very content, with just having his catering business going on. And I kind of asked him why is it that that was where he wanted to stop. And one of his big reasons of being wanting to stop there is because he didn't see anything else. Like he didn't have the help to be able to push things forward. Although he did have the energy. And I noticed that he had that energy so I kind of I pushed on that. And made sure that I can grow and when he saw that I was there I was willing to help he was open to putting more out so that he can grow more so that we can both grow more. For me personally, I don't see the end of the growth. We have a big vision of where we want to go right now we have food truck catering in restaurant. But we want to go into having food on shelves. So our mission is really to just to bring Jamaican cuisine to the mainstream. And after we get there then we'll have some more things that we want to jump into. (laughs) So the growth opportunities are pretty limitless and it just all depends on the individual organization how they want to run their organization. Some of the most important things I would look for when we're hiring people are making sure that they have they have to be self-motivated. They have to be driven. Because it's very fast-paced and there's nothing that can make you more upset than when you're rushing around to get stuff done and then you see people just crawling and creeping. (laughs) Through the day. That's frustrating. So, there has to be someone who's driven. It's people that are open to learning and people that are have a sense of urgency. Because everything is very fast-paced with us. We have two hours to put out the truck in the morning. When we get there we have for the most part, two hours where we're servicing all of our hundreds of customers. And then we want to get everything done as quickly as possible. That's pretty much quickly, efficiently, and correctly. The best thing to do if you're interested in working in food trucks or running a food truck or managing a food truck is just to just get in there and start learning. Being willing to just start and maybe just starting out doing prep or doing dishes or kind of just seeing the people are doing in there. That's how I started, I started off just helping Ernie out. So like I would just go in there a couple days a week and just like work a couple times whenever he needed me and just like put things on trays for him or wash up his dishes, or clean up the table after. So I think just getting in there, opening yourself up to the opportunity, learning as much as you possibly can because there's so much to learn. Another huge pitfall that people should avoid is not thinking that they can just go from zero to the top right away. Like you have to be willing to be patient with yourself, be patient with the process, and giving yourself some time. If you have an opportunity to get into somewhere and to learn you can't think that you're gonna come in and just like turn over the entire operation or take over the entire operation. When there are people there who built the foundation and you have to be willing to work with those people, learn from those people, because they're there for a reason. So I think some people have come in with the mindset of oh, I'm here, I'm running it, I'm done. (laughs) But you have to be willing to learn and give yourself time to grow in a position.
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