Jeremy “Jay” Johnson has always loved food. And he’s always loved to cook. He gets that from his grandmothers, Hazel Owens and Mabel Johnson, who always served delicious meals, and would cook just about anything.
Inspired by his grandmothers’ culinary creativity, Jay always dreamed of owning his own food truck. So after working in the food industry and sacrificing his dream to help his wife run her daycare business while she finished her degree, the Johnsons recently decided it was time to make the dream come true.
“This really happened because of my wife, Antoinette,” Johnson said. “She came home one day and said, ‘You helped me live my dream, now let’s live yours. Let’s make this happen.’ ”
That’s all Jay needed to hear. The first step was finding a truck, which in this case is actually a converted mini-bus with a custom-installed kitchen to get it up to code.
The next step was finding a name – something that would sum up a variety of food. “At first I thought fish and chicken would be the main dishes, but I like to cook lots of things. And I didn’t want to stick to one or two main things in case they didn’t sell. That’s when my mom (Glenda) said, ‘Why don’t you call it J’s Good Grub’? So that’s what it is. We’re constantly changing it up and adding new things. It might be fried chicken one night and tacos the next. I let my customers’ feedback decide what stays on the menu.”
But the truck has become about more than just serving up good grub. One night this past winter, Jay encountered a homeless man at a bus stop. So he went back to the food truck, boxed up a meal, grabbed a blanket, and made sure the guy had a belly full of food and a warm blanket to sleep with that night. “That whole experience taught me how real homelessness is, even right here in Owensboro,” he said. When Jay posted about it on Facebook the next day, he was overwhelmed with the response. Friends and followers donated bottled water, shoes, and clothes.
A few nights later he boxed up enough hot meals to feed everyone at St. Benedicts Homeless Shelter. Not that he can do that every night, but he does what he can.
Now, anytime Jay is out with the food truck, he’s always got an eye out for people on the street and he goes out of his way to drop off extra meals at the end of the night. “This food truck is a blessing. So I want to bless other people because I’ve been without before. I know what that’s like,” he said.
The food truck has also become a family effort. Antoinette is right there by his side and helps run the business. Their kids (Angel Canady and Jaylin Johnson) sell drinks to earn a little allowance. “I’m trying to be a positive role model for my kids and teach them to follow their dreams and not be afraid of failure. I believe the only failure is the dream you have in your head that you are scared to put into action. So I’m trying to show them the path so that one day they can open their own business.”
But for now, the Johnsons are concentrating on spreading the word about J’s Good Grub Food Truck, coming up with the next menu item, and gearing up for appearances at ROMP and Friday After 5 this summer.
Until then, you might find J’s Good Grub Food Truck parked around town or at whatever business invites them to come during lunch hour.
Check Facebook to see where the food truck will be next.
“For me, it comes down to three things: good quality food, being consistent, and being there for people. That’s it. It’s all about blessings,” Jay summarized. “Maybe one day we’ll get a brick and mortar building, but this food truck actually allows us to get out there with the people and spread the blessings better. I love the feedback. I love making things better for our customers.”