Discovering trendy dishes at a food truck isn’t that surprising, but discovering the why behind Green Bay’s Taste of Ethiopia food truck is.
Having lived and worked in many exclusive, high-end dining destinations in various cities throughout my life, it is ironic for me to discover the beauty of food without borders in the town I currently live in, Green Bay, WI.
I regularly attend local farmers markets and always find fantastic, fun food. When I spotted the Taste of Ethiopia food truck this year, I was impressed not only by the aromas wafting from its vents, but also the flavors, cooking process and passion the owner has for the food. I was thrilled to hear the story of how this food truck wound up in Green Bay, WI.
Like most Midwest cities, Green Bay has a lot of your typical, crowd-pleasing foods including grilled cheese with smoked brisket, fried cheese curds, and gelato stuffed macaroon cookies.
However, as I approached the food truck covered with authentic Ethiopian folk art painted on its frame, I was surprised to find a large crowd surrounding the order window while a tent for an iconic local micro-brewery stood empty nearby.
I thought to myself that this food really must be something special -- after all Green Bay has been voted one of the top beer drinking cities in the United States year after year! I was excited to think that the typical steak, potato and fried cheese eaters of the Midwest were open to try this new culinary experience.
I was also intrigued by the bright native colors of the truck and the extensive preparation that went into the food. It was evident that this fare was created with a purpose. As it turns out, the Ethiopian flavors were not created by an exuberant chef with an uncanny sense of what’s on-trend, but by a loving parent who has spent the last decade trying to offer his three adopted children a taste of their heritage -- something that would ground them and remind them of their old life in Ethiopia.
This hero’s story belongs to Pat Joyce, a former truck driver and now dedicated father and philanthropist for the homeless children of Ethiopia. Pat had a vision to help more than just the children he adopted. He wanted to help all of the homeless children in Ethiopia by raising enough money to send a food truck to their country.
However, Pat’s idea was a lot more expensive than he originally planned on. In order to raise funds to send a food truck to Ethiopia, Pat and his adopted children started creating authentic, Ethiopian food that they hoped Wisconsin locals would find enticing.
Pat’s approach when he was first starting out was to keep the flavors simple and familiar. He knew he had to overcome the challenge of introducing uncommon dishes to Wisconsin natives, so he began sourcing a favorite spice that he and his children enjoyed, berbere.
Little did he know, berbere would prove to be an up-and-coming flavor in the world of ethnic food. Pat also started cooking his own lentils and proteins to prepare each dish the same way it is prepared in Ethiopia. Although this is a slow process, he was sure others would taste the love he and his family put into their food. Pat has made sure Taste of Ethiopia stays true to its roots, but he certainly has not limited himself when it comes to creativity. Some fun and notable dishes include the berbere loaded french fries and the berbere street tacos. Both are simply amazing! They have successfully turned what was once an unknown flavor profile in Green Bay, WI into something almost anyone would be willing to try -- and try they have.
Perhaps the coolest part of this story (from a culinary perspective) is that Pat doesn't follow food trends. When he started Taste of Ethiopia, he was just trying to make his family happy and hopefully feed some hungry children in a country far away from home.
The fact that berbere has grown over 13% in menu penetration in the last 4 years and Pat just happens to use this flavor in his dishes is a coincidence, especially since this flavor is just starting to get noticed in restaurants.
Pat’s story is unique because following food trends and finding new ways to incorporate them into everyday dishes or “fusion foods” is huge in our industry right now.
We’ve seen plenty of trending fusion foods create a culinary delirium -- like Sriracha, which can now be found in every possible food product, whether it’s at your local grocery store or at large chain restaurants like McDonald’s.
Discovering people like Pat who are doing this for the love of people and not trying to be trendy is awesome. As an adventurer in food and a believer in food’s ability to raise the human spirit to new levels, it is quite respectable.
To top it all off, all of the proceeds from Taste of Ethiopia support their mission to empower youth and families, to alleviate hunger and diminish illiteracy among the most vulnerable families and orphans living in Ethiopia.
You can learn more about this great cause and find out where the Taste of Ethiopia food truck will be next by visiting their website here: https://bit.ly/2MImIJX
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