R.lock icon Grateful Dead We blended multiple genres to create a memorable song. Now, decades later, her truck owner, Desiree Bagnell, cooks in the same way. She runs her food truck, The Grateful Gourmet, in the Garden State, and is a legend to its name.today we do it best new jersey food trucks.
Bagnell started his culinary business over 20 years ago under the name My Retro Bistro. At the time, she had a full-time career in human resources and recruiting, so it was her side business. As her business slowly grew, she only occasionally catered small events such as her birthday parties and baby showers. However, Bagnell was laid off from her full-time job during her COVID-19 pandemic.
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Luckily, Bagnell and her husband, Paul, had already assembled the food truck. While waiting for her truck to be assembled and painted, Bagnell posted her weekly menu on her media page on Social. She personally delivers her food to her customers’ doorsteps. But by the fall of 2020, The Grateful Gourmet has hit the streets of New Jersey. The truck has visited many events and vineyards and still caters for intimate parties.
The Grateful Gourmet offers a variety of Southern-inspired comfort foods inspired by the German traditions of Bagnell’s mother and grandmother. She adds her own twist to her traditional dishes while staying true to each favorite flavor. best of new jersey We spoke with Desiree to discuss the menu, trucks and her life growing up cooking.
Best of NJ Interview: Grateful Gourmet
BONJ: You have a very unique track. What was the process of preparing it like?
Applicant: I got the guys working on the truck to speed the truck up a bit and finish it sooner after I was laid off.It was supposed to go by fall 2021. ’57 Canned Ham from North Carolina Fishermen I found a camper van. I had it painted by a local Long Island artist.It was just this rickety looking old trailer and we decided to annihilate it. Because I thought there might be a niche, it would look pretty like that‘. And it turned out.
BONJ: May I ask, just in name, are you a fan of the Grateful Dead?
Applicant: yes [laughs]. I gigantic I’m a Grateful Dead fan, yes. Actually, I just got back from a show in Charlotte. I jumped down to see them. I try to attend as many shows as possible whenever they perform.
BONJ: Did you always know what you were going to name the track?
Applicant: The funny thing is, when I started this, I started by catering. So I was able to keep my toes in the water and keep my passion alive. Then people started asking me. or “Do you think you can host this birthday party?”
So I started by catering as My Retro Bistro. That was the mother company I started. But when I saw the track it all came together. It was like, “I’m going to be a Grateful Gourmet.” And it turned into exactly what it should have been.
BONJ: What year did you first start catering?
Applicant: It’s just the beginning…I’m dating myself from now on [laughs]It means that 20 years have passed. And little events here and there. So 2000, 2001.
BONJ: What was the business like when you first started My Retro Bistro and then The Grateful Gourmet?
Applicant: I started a small event, but when I was laid off, it turned into something else entirely. But when the pandemic hit, I thought, ‘Okay, let me figure out how to make a living out of this. Contactless delivery has started. I had a weekly menu as the Grateful Gourmet and people texted me and his Venmo. Then I would go deliver meals to their homes so they wouldn’t have to cook.
And when the track was ready, everything was ready to go roadside. We ended our weekly meal deliveries and went full speed ahead with our trucks. I just had to be flexible.
BONJ: When was your first event on the track?
Applicant: Our first stop was Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery in Cape May.
BONJ: How was that experience?
Applicant: Amazing. So you’re a nervous wreck.I plugged it in and I got think I know how it works. ” But honestly, the first event starts solving all the problems. Your instincts kick in and you know how to cook and keep spinning. It’s just a resistance if you’re a little nervous or you’re with a new team.
My husband works with us and one of my best friends also works with us. So when there is such an event, it should be strengthened. After finishing the first day, we were like, ‘Okay, we need some wine now,’ and it was great. [laughs]”And let’s talk about what we can do better next time.”
BONJ: Where do you usually deliver to?
Applicant: If they order a quantity for delivery, I’d be within about 25 miles of Haddon Township.
BONJ: Alright, let’s go eat. How would you describe your menu?
Applicant: It certainly feels like Southern-style comfort food. Often I try to fuse the concepts of South and North. It’s like putting a Philadelphia twist on certain things. Sure I have my own little twist, but you try to keep it as classic as possible. For example, there’s the pork sandwich I’m making. I make barbecue pork and then throw in something really philly, like hot cherry peppers usually on cheesesteak.
The best part of this is that you can do what you want [laughs]I have a lot of notebooks and I’m going to come up with some crazy combinations and try them out.
It’s what people want to eat when they go out to the food truck. It fills you up, satisfies you, and is very relaxing.
BONJ: What are the menu items that people go crazy for?
Applicant: Of course, Nashville Hot Chicken is one of them. Tater tots and Brussels sprouts. And you’re like, “Brussels sprouts? Wow, that’s weird.” [laughs].
These are some of the main staples. I love the tater tots because you can do so many things with them. I make Nashville tots, salt and vinegar, dill, truffle parm…there are countless things you can do with tater tots. they are very popular.
There is also a popular grilled cheese. There’s something that’s always on the menu called the Little Dreamer, and it’s pretty popular. There is also bacon his jam with pear, arugula and two cheeses.
BONJ: What catering options do you offer?
Applicant: We can cater for anything from a private dinner for two to a large party. Often I host small, intimate dinner parties. That’s where you need something a little more sophisticated. Even for big events like weddings and baby showers. I like meeting customers, getting to know them and finding what they are looking for. However, I review the menu with my customers and try to figure out exactly what they want.
BONJ: Do you have anything special planned for 2022?
Applicant: Believe it or not, people are already booking their weddings for next year. It’s weddings and rehearsals. Also, many corporate events are booked this year, including employee appreciation events and corporate luncheons. We are also planning some fun events. It’s full throttle!
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All photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ