High on the list of iconic American comfort meals, the ones that your mom could assemble even if she wasn’t a great cook, is the Sloppy Joe. Consisting of ground hamburger meat, onions, and green peppers in a tomato sauce on a spilt bun, it’s messy to eat but quick to prepare and makes for a hearty, crowd-pleasing main dish.
Chef Joe Defeis of Yonkers is using this untidy sandwich (made with 100% Angus beef) as the basis for Sloppie Joe’s Gourmet Grub, a food truck he started in October 2017. We talked to Defeis about his business and what it’s like to head up a food truck.
WM: Why a Sloppy Joe truck? Is it a favorite food of yours or is it more the case you want to be something different?
Joe Defeis: “I knew I was doing a food truck but was unsure of a concept. There was this one day when I came home to my girlfriend and we were in the process of moving things in and out of storage so our house was a bit of a mess and she said to me as a joke ‘Why don’t you just name the truck Sloppie Joe’s?’ Right there it snapped and I looked at her and said, ‘You know what, that is a great idea.’ I looked into it and realized it is something that has not been done in the way I wanted to do it so I then worked on recipes for a few months until I nailed it.”
WM: What was the catalyst for you to get into the food truck business?
JD: “I’ve always loved food trucks. I worked one for a few months as a teenager and then owned a hot dog truck for a short period of time when I was 20. I decided to go full force and quit my full-time job to run the business now. I am a father and a father-to-be next month to my second child so I really just want to do something that can be a stepping stone towards a bright future for my children.”
WM: What did your significant other/family/friends say when you told them you were gong to go into the food truck biz?
JD: “My significant other was the one who really pushed me to follow my passion. She knew I was unhappy in my day-to-day work life and just wanted to see me happy. I mean, she technically did create the name. She is my other half in all aspects of life and my family is also an amazing support system, they trust that the decisions I make at this point in life are what is best for me and my family.”
WM: How much was your truck to purchase and what was it previously?
JD: “It was an old Tastykake truck, 1985 actually. I took out two loans to purchase it for an all-in more than 50K.”
WM: What is your bestseller?
JD: “The bestseller would be the Slop-a-cado Joe. Lettuce, tomato, thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, signature Sloppie Sauce, and avocado on a multigrain or brioche bun.”
WM: What did you do previously for work and do you have any culinary training?
JD: “I worked for some popular burger chains [e.g., BurgerFi] and worked up the ranks from an assistant manager to a general manager to district manager to a regional manager for two different companies in the last six years but owning my own was always my ultimate goal.”
WM: What are your regular locations for people to find you?
JD: “Locations vary depending on a day-to-day basis. I always post my location on Facebook and Instagram so its best to just follow our page @sloppiejoesny to see where we will be.”
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