When Austin resident Chris Jossell decided that he wanted to put his culinary education to use and open a food truck, he didn’t go to area food truck hotbeds like Chicago’s Loop or North Side.
Instead, said his wife, Kesha, he decided to return to his hometown of suburban Maywood. The couple’s intention is to use the food truck as a stepping stone before working up enough capital to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Hence, CJ’s BBQ Cruiser.
Kesha said that Maywood officials, who confirmed during a phone interview earlier this month that the license was issued, told her that CJ’s would be the first licensed food truck to operate in Maywood. It could be the only operating in the western suburbs outside of Oak Park.
“His whole idea was to have a restaurant, but those require a lot more capital and finance,” Kesha said. “So to get started in the restaurant business, we thought that, since food trucks are becoming a lot more accepted, we would invest in one of them. But since Chris is from Maywood and [the village] doesn’t have any food trucks, we came here.”
Kesha, 40, said that she and her husband discovered that, while Chicago is something of a hotbed of food truck activity nowadays, the regulations for actually starting one are vastly more complex than in the suburbs. In addition, the licenses are a lot more expensive and more difficult to obtain.
“Some of your suburbs are less costly in terms of getting a license to run a food truck,” Kesha said. “The suburbs are also friendlier to new businesses.”
Kesha, who manages the operation’s social media, marketing and other administrative demands, said that navigating the licensure process in Maywood was relatively smooth.
“With Maywood, it wasn’t very long to get our license,” she said. “They were very helpful, they told us what we needed and helped us get it accomplished. So, we’re very proud to have started somewhere that is food-truck friendly.”
Kesha said her husband, who previously operated a nonprofit, through which he taught young people how to cook, will be serving up ribs, rib tips, pulled pork, brisket and fried chicken made to order. You can also purchase sides, such as baked beans and French fries (both the regular kind and sweet potato).
The couple is hoping to attract hungry customers from all over the Chicago area, including the West Side, Kesha added. So far, she said, food trucks need a license to operate in each town they stop in, so actual sales will be limited to Maywood.
The Jossells, however, may consider expanding and acquiring licenses to operate in nearby suburbs — perhaps even on the West Side — as well. In the meantime, you can always go to them.
For more information, visit http://cjsbbqcruiser.com/index.html.