Jordan Roots Kickstarting a new food truck
Does this face look familiar?
It might if you saw him make it into the top 10 as a contestant on the last season of MasterChef, where he gained a reputation as a superb sauce-maker with a flair for making simple food into complex, composed plates. Or maybe you know him as your friendly neighborhood delivery man, since he drove a FedEx truck for some time before deciding to follow his food dreams full time. He's Jordan Roots, and he's looking to get behind the wheel of a truck with a very different purpose. The talented young buck just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help his Salted Roots food truck become a reality.
The Hot Dish got a chance to chat with Roots and hear more about what might be on the menu, the other local trucks he admires, and what Gordon Ramsay is like in real life.
The Hot Dish: What made you decide to try out for MasterChef?
Jordan Roots: I like to put on these fancy dinner parties for friends and family. I did a ten-course meal for four of my friends and one of them, who was also a fan of the show, was blown away. She pushed me to try out, basically. I had never watched it, didn't follow it, and really would never have thought of doing something like this.
The night before the tryouts, she texted me and was like, "Did you go get all your groceries for the tryout?" Even at that point I was a little reluctant and she just said, "What do you have to lose?" That hit home with me. I probably would have been sleeping in, you know? So I went in leery, even though I am passionate about food and cooking and what I do, I do it for myself. I really didn't know how I would perform in a competition setting. I had no idea where I stacked up against everyone else.
HD: Well getting on the show must have answered some of those questions for you and obviously you stacked up well since you went really far in the competition. What dish did you cook in your audition?
JR: It was a three mini tostadas with ancho chili pulled pork, roasted corn salsa, agave pickled onions, and a cilantro mint aioli.
HD: What's Gordon Ramsay like? Did you have any interaction with any of the judges when you were off-camera?
JR: We did get to hang out with them when we got to the top 10. They were really open books, and they just let us have at it and pick their brains about anything. That was a pretty incredible opportunity. Gordon and Graham (Elliot) were more open. Joe's (Bastianich) sort of show persona is that he's a bit of a hot shot, and with him I think that was true in real life too. Gordon though, is so different than what you see on camera. He was so genuine, making people laugh all the time and you can really tell how aware he is of everyone else. He has this big presence, but just a really infectious personality. I follow him more intently since the show, and it's so obvious to me how much he cares, and how giving he is to his students and his fans and just the whole community he services.
HD: Did you have the idea that you wanted to start a food truck before you were on MasterChef? How did the experience of cooking on the show affect your plans for you own future?
JR: I wanted my own restaurant, definitely. But I'm a huge people person so I would want to be like the Travail guys if I was cooking in a restaurant. I wouldn't want to miss out on the front of house experience if I had a restaurant. Having a brick and mortar is a dream for sure, but the truck is much more manageable, and I can still be out there talking to the people I am feeding. I did have that idea before MasterChef. I always said I want a five-star dive bar and serve, like, foie gras on a paper plate. I think I would have to go brick and mortar to do that but the food truck is a more sensible jumping off point.
HD: And now you have officially jumped! Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign.
JR: It just launched two days ago. In the first few hours I got a few hundred dollars. After a day we are at about $2,000 so I feel positive.
I'm planning for a smaller truck with bare necessities. But the first thing I will do if the campaign is successful is work on paying back and making good on all the gifts we promised to our backers. That will probably be a few months worth of work, honestly.
I am looking at mainly pre-fab ones rather than custom, just for the sake of cost. I think I can make it work in, you know, some old fried food carnival truck. The equipment, or lack thereof, won't get in my way. So even with keeping it kind of simple as an operation, I am probably looking at 2015 before I am able to hit the streets.
HD: What are some of the other local food trucks you like or admire?
JR: Hola Arepa, definitely. The food is just phenomenal, and I want to talk to them about how they run their business. I hope to be as successful as them. I want that kind of trajectory, hopefully turning into a brick-and-mortar opportunity after a few years.
I love the food at Gastro Truck. I like the simplicity of their food. I have a tendency to get over-complicated so it's nice reminder to see people who do pure and simple so well.
A to Z truck is great, too. Andrew (Zimmern) has actually reached out to me regarding this project which is pretty cool. Food-wise there are ones I like better, but conceptually I think what they're doing is great.
HD: What kind of food are you planning to make in your upcoming truck?
JR: Salted Roots' concept is going to be seasonal and I am a fan of mixing stuff I shouldn't mix. I don't know exact dishes yet but I have been messing around with pears and salted caramel ricotta, so I may do something with that. I have something in with works that involves chicken confit, popcorn, and peanut brittle. Another combo I love is red meat and peanut butter, so that will probably make an appearance. Also tuna and fruit. I will probably doing something with Ahi and grapes.
I want to introduce a different type of food truck food. Not like strictly molecular stuff like spherification, but I do want to stretch the imagination. It will be adventurous.