Why you should care
Because we all gotta eat.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
We’re nearing the end of summer, so today I’m up early to train three new employees to work the truck. I need to make sure they know my product, the safety procedures on the truck and are comfortable talking to customers. But most of all, I need to hire people who love peanut butter and the way it brings people together. I want them to be proud of the fact that they’re part of the PB&Jams story.
I should clarify that my day job is teaching high school health and PE in the Philadelphia public school system, so during the school year, PB&Jams business has to happen in the evenings and on weekends. But I’ve wanted a food truck for a long time.
I started PB&Jams in 2013 while on a yearlong sabbatical. It was when I had a taste of real Haitian peanut butter that I had my aha moment. My own blends of nut butters soon followed, and they landed on store shelves citywide and in farmers’ markets. Then came the food truck, where we make sandwiches, smoothies and snacks. There’s the classic grilled PB&J; the deep-fried PB&J; the Jawn with an all-beef hot dog; our Baby Badu tacos, a new vegan offering with a nutty, spicy Asian kick; the Wham with spinach, cheese and red pepper jelly; the Little Richard with dark chocolate; classic PB with grilled or deep-fried bananas; and a bunch of others.
During the school year, I’m up before the sun every day. I make a smoothie using my own cashew butter, and go over my morning list; the must-get-done items set the tone for the day. On days devoted to PB&Jams, that could mean picking up peanuts, spices, dark chocolate and other ingredients from distributors, meeting with the mechanic to discuss how a repair to my massive Robot Coupe machine can happen ASAP so production isn’t slowed down during my busiest season, or, like today, training new employees.
I always make time for whipping up new recipes for the truck and experimenting with different combinations. My latest is a vegan cornbread square, browned, with our dark chocolate almond butter, pomegranate seeds and coconut whipped cream. This is the stuff that keeps me excited and keeps people coming back.
Earlier this year, we were featured in a national Triscuit commercial and received some funding through the Triscuit Maker Fund, an initiative that supports small food businesses across the country. People are hearing about us. The funding has also helped us ramp up production so that we can sell in new locations and give more back to the community, which is huge for me. Other than having fun, feeding the hungry and supporting the community has been the entire purpose of what I’m doing.
When I was a kid, peanuts and other nuts were always around the house, and I heard many stories about my grandfather’s experiences growing up in the heart of peanut country. When they shelled peanuts, they always listened to music — classic soul, funk and more. When it’s time to get up for an all-day event in the heat and we have to lift a 400-pound generator, I remember that it’s their legacy I’m carrying forward, so classic tunes in the truck — that’s my jam.