Ben’s unique profession path did not embody the culinary arts in any respect, however as a substitute targeted on training. “I began as a highschool instructor and it did not pan out,” he says. “So I went to culinary college,” a call that sparked a ardour for him.
Jodi was additionally a instructor, working in elementary colleges, earlier than she determined to attend culinary college, too. “We’re second-career those who type of hit it massive doing culinary,” Ben notes.
After graduating, Ben landed a company eating gig with Compass Group, the place he labored for over a decade, gaining expertise getting ready and serving meals to giant crowds. It was throughout that point that the idea for Mama Jo’s shaped, utilizing Jodi’s buttermilk smoked Gouda biscuit recipe as inspiration.
“For years, I used to be operating kitchens at workplace buildings like Boeing,” Ben says. “I satisfied higher administration to tug me out of the constructing, and so they gave me a van, and I simply drove round doing Mama Jo’s, the pop-up. … It turned out to be type of a model for them that I used to be going round and doing in numerous cafeterias.”
On the time, “rooster biscuits have been our massive factor,” Ben says. “They have been all the time nicely obtained on the completely different workplace buildings I went to, and I used to be similar to, I guess I could make it work as an idea for a meals truck. And barbecue has all the time been a ardour of mine, too. Combining these two issues, like having Carolina-style barbecue and fried rooster biscuits, appeared like a superb gig.”
When the pandemic hit, Ben, like so many others within the hospitality trade, was laid off, although he was assured in his capability to discover a new gig shortly. “I all the time joked with my bosses that, you already know, should you fired me, I would have a job the subsequent day. I obtained fired on a Tuesday, after which I obtained employed on because the meals truck director at Steuben’s the subsequent day,” he recollects. “If you are going to open a meals truck, you should learn to run one.”
When he took the gig, he was up entrance with Steuben’s about his intentions to open his personal meals truck sooner or later, and he and Jodi started perfecting their recipes by doing a collection of pop-ups out of Tessa Delicatessen on East Colfax.
Mama Jo’s launched three years in the past, and the Polsons have discovered lots since then. At first, “we had all of our sauces in actually small squeeze bottles; we have been utilizing tiny sauté pans to make mac and cheese,” Ben recollects. “Now we have got quart-size squeeze bottles and the most important sauté pans I can discover. And we needed to redesign the menu. Once we first opened, I had brisket, fried inexperienced tomatoes and banana pies. You may’t reheat brisket, and the worth went up for beef, so we removed brisket and put spare ribs on. Folks beloved fried inexperienced tomatoes, however they weeded the truck so dangerous, and on the finish of 1 service we determined fuck it, and so they went off the menu and we placed on tater tots. … You simply determine issues out, what works and what does not.”
At this time, Ben runs the day-to-day operations of the truck whereas Jodi is concentrated on the enterprise aspect, dealing with payroll and scheduling. “After I’ve wanted somebody, she’s jumped on and helped,” Ben says. “We’ve two little children, and she or he runs an entire pastry program.”
Ben is fast to confess that his favourite a part of operating a meals truck is being his personal boss. “For years, I needed to work for folks I did not get pleasure from, and now I am doing what I like and I am earning money doing it,” he says. “If I have to take a break day, we are able to schedule a break day. I’ve obtained it so dialed in proper now that I work Monday by way of Friday.”
On the present menu, Ben’s favourite merchandise is the “actually banging Nashville rooster sandwich that lots of people do not learn about,” he says. “It is our smoked Gouda biscuit with our lemon-brined rooster thigh that is buttermilk-fried after which dunked in our Nashville scorching oil. After which it will get our Alabama white sauce, our home bread-and-butter pickles, and our creamy coleslaw.”
Mama Jo’s providing a wide range of regional barbecue sauces, resembling a candy tomato-based Kansas Metropolis sauce and a vinegary Carolina model. Together with barbecue meats and a jackfruit biscuit sandwich to fulfill its vegetarian prospects, the truck serves sides like traditional-style collard greens and mac and cheese, plus sweets like apple fritters. However it’s Jodi’s wealthy, smoky, flaky biscuit recipe that continues to be the true showstopper — it definitely impressed this Southerner.
And Mama Jo’s makes an entire lot of biscuits. “We’re cranking 600 per week. It is madness,” Ben says.
Whereas the proficient culinary duo says they might ultimately open a mom-and-pop barbecue restaurant, for now they’re completely happy of their respective roles.
To search out the complete schedule for Mama Jo’s Biscuits & BBQ, go to its web site, mamajosbiscuits.com.