J’S Good Grub- The History of One of the Most Popular Food Trucks in Kentucky
When Jay Johnson was a kid, he routinely watched his parents and grandparents cook. But it wasn’t until that he got the chance to be hands on in the kitchen that his passion for food service began to grow. His very first job ever was at McDonald’s. Jay calls that experience “an eye opener”. He recalls that his stint at McDonald’s was during those “crazy under-a-dollar cheeseburger specials.” The kitchen at McDonald’s was fast-paced, relentless, and educational. It’s precisely where Jay’s passion for ‘good grub’ was born.
He followed his job at McDonald’s up with a job in “the pizza world.” There, he mastered the craft of flipping and stretching dough and, rather metaphorically, he was stretching. He was expanding his own capabilities in the kitchen. It’s when he started experimenting with his first grill that Jay found his first true “food” love- BBQ!
He admits there was lots of trial and error. Jay says there were times he “burned” things up, but he always learned from his mistakes. That process ultimately brought Jay a lot of peace of mind. Day by day he was growing more confident in his culinary skills. He was honing those skills and developing a love for food that would ultimately inspire him to create the food truck that many people in the Tristate area consider to be the very best.
Jay says the idea for the J’s Good Grub food truck was rooted in early childhood experiences. He remembers watching some street vendors and recalls one specific dad/son-operated business. He says, “Seeing them being their own boss and having fun together and how much people supported them made me want that kind of family business.”
Today, that family business- the J’s Good Grub food truck- is thriving. Jay recently celebrated the anniversary of his first-ever customer. Mr. Fred Embry was the customer who gave Jay the very first dollar he ever earned with his truck. Today, there have been thousands upon thousands of customers.
In fact, I recall Burger Week 2023. The wait for J’s Big Booty Judy Burger was routinely an hour.
To say that folks in Owensboro are fans of J’s Good Grub is an understatement. They swear by it. Look! I’ll admit it. I’m right there with them.
Jay believes that consistency and customer service are keys to his success. Well, that and his love for people. He says, “You have to treat customers like they just stepped into your house and you invited them to your kitchen table.” That’s certainly how a visit to the food truck feels. Typically, Jay’s in the “kitchen” and his wife Antoinette is working the window, greeting guests and making change.
Jay’s aunt (who got him his first job at McDonald’s) and his sister are a part of the team too. It’s a family affair that’s helped create GGN- Good Grub Nation.
So, what’s next? There have been rumors that J’s Good Grub is looking for a brick and mortar location here in town, but Jay says that is not happening. In fact, he says, “I’ll go ahead and kill the rumors now.” But, there are plans for a second truck and, possibly a third, which will feature the new beverage and kid meal line that his youngest son Jayden is working on.
That’s another example of how Jay’s passing what he’s learned down to his kids. He wants to set up his family to win. He says, “I tell them all- I will grind day and night to put you in first place, but you have to hop in the seat and keep your foot on the gas.” He closes with “Don’t worry about what’s in your rear view. Your past doesn’t define you. It’s how you overcome it and be the best version of you.”
Well, put. And Jay knows this from experience. The only thing in his rear view mirror is a line of people waiting to get their hands and teeth on some J’s Good Grub.
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Gallery Credit: Dave Spencer