Posted by: Ted D. Davis
The city of Birmingham is a relative neophyte in the era of the modern day food trucks, but a mighty contingent of these enterprises has cropped up to serve delicious, indigenous, and gourmet delicacies to our citizen’s without having to dine in. Magic City Radar would like to extend an enthusiastic welcome to Sam and Crystal Rasberry’s Cheezin’ Gourmet Grille, another fantastic option to the city’s mobile food options!
We were given the privilege of speaking with the Rasberry’s about their background, their introduction to the industry, and their vision for “cheezin” the city of Birmingham.
MCR: What is Cheezin’ Gourmet Grille, and how and why was it conceived?
CR: “It’s a gourmet grilled cheese food truck. I’ve always loved cheese! I’m a cheese head (laughing). I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois, a region of the country where cheese and cheese products are a dominant food choice, which makes the decision operate a grilled cheese food truck a natural one for me”.
MCR: Does either of you have a background in cooking? What did you do before operating the truck?
SR: “I’m originally from Jasper, and I’m a career soldier in the United States Army. A few years back I was stationed at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for a two year stint, and when the opportunity was offered to end my career here, where it began, I took it”.
MCR: What was life in Wisconsin like?
SR: “Cold (laughing). While we were there, temperatures once hovered at zero degrees for ninety straight days. Kids weren’t allowed to play outside until the temp finally reached seven degrees! Obviously, I’d never experienced that level of cold in my life. But it was living and working in those conditions that gave me the confidence that we could operate a food truck in any extremes. People have to eat no matter the weather, and we were convinced we could thrive in the food truck arena”.
MCR: How did the food truck actually materialize?
CR: “I was a stay-at-home mom who wanted something to do, and I told Sam I wanted to operate a food truck”.
MCR: I’ve heard horror stories about food trucks and commissaries (Giggling knowingly). Restaurants can be exploitive. Do you have a similar story?
SR: “Ours is actually a dream come true. Are you familiar with the Apple Dumpling Bar (offering Soul food delights at 360 Palisades Boulevard, Birmingham, Alabama 35209 from 11AM to 6PM. Call 205-414-8888 for details and see it on Facebook)”?
MCR: I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t eaten there as yet.
SR: “About two years ago, I was getting my hair cut at a barber shop adjacent to the restaurant. After I was done I walked into the place to see if there was something I wanted to eat, and I had the privilege of meeting Mary Collins, the proprietor. She’d actually just opened her doors of her operation not long before we met. We talked about it, her dreams and plans for the future, and I prayed with her for her success. A year later, when we were looking for a commissary, we thought of Ms. Collins. We contacted her, asked if she’d serve as our commissary, and when she immediately agreed to we felt blessed by the idea to operate a truck”.
MCR: Where’d the actual truck come from?
SR: “We purchased the truck from Golden Flake, and it’s really given us the experience we’d hoped for. It’s a spacious, powerful, dependable truck that we’ve worked in Atlanta, had painted in Minneapolis, and drove back to Birmingham after work abroad (laughing). We know it’s a sturdy truck”.
MCR: What’s your fare?
CR: “Our specialties are steak melts, pizza melts, carne asada melts (In Latin America, carne asada is specifically a skirt steak, flank steak, or flap steak, grilled and served as slices. It’s typically cooked with a certain amount of searing to impart a charred flavor), strawberry shortcake grilled cheese, and cheese curds”.
MCR: Gasp! Strawberry Shortcake Grilled Cheese (laughing)?
CR: “Can I be honest? It’s fantastic” (Giggling).
MCR: “After this interview is posted, I have a feeling people will have to find out”.
SR: “And we offer fried cheese curds. We’re the first to offer those in Alabama. You can’t walk into Wal-Mart and buy those”.
MCR: I know. My son’s mom is from Wisconsin. She’s the only person I know who ever had them in their fridge, and she’s imported them from the north” (laughing loudly together).
SR: “Likewise, specialty soups are coming, especially to warm us in the winter months”.
MCR: Great! Where do you operate?
SR: “We operate primarily in what is considered the “Premier Place” area for food trucks in down town Birmingham, around 6th Avenue South, but we often float around in down town when there are events to serve. And they love us at Good People Brewery (www.goodpeoplebrewing.com), Trim Tab Brewing Co. (trimtabbrewing.com), and Hop City Beer & Wine Birmingham (www.hopcitybeer.com).
In addition, we work Regions Field at Birmingham Barons games. We’ll be in Regions Field on May 21st and for games in June, and we hope to add more dates”.
MCR: What’s your long range goal for the operation?
SR: “We’ll go where the truck takes us” (chuckling).
CR: “Brick and mortar is the goal, but I’ll go where the truck takes us. I never could have imagined I’d be doing this! I thought I’d be a model and jet set about the world, but this is what God has given us, and we love it”.
MCR: Any last words?
CR: “We’ll be at Regions Field on May 21st, 2016, and like us on Facebook”.
MCR: Thank you both so much for this opportunity.
Magic City Radar is excited about Cheezin’ Gourmet Grille’s presence in the city food scene, and we look forward to bringing you up to the minute alerts about all the food truck and food related offerings the city has for your enjoyment. Stay tuned for more!