Jeff Kraus Crepe Bar 7520 S. Rural Road, Tempe 480-247-8012 www.facebook.com/TruckinGoodFood
This is part one of my interview with Jeff Kraus, chef-owner of the recently opened Crepe Bar and former owner of TruckinGoodFood, a food truck famous for its crepes. Come back on Tuesday for part two, when Kraus reveals his science-nerd side and explains why he admires Eliot Wexler and Josh Hebert.
Jeff Kraus is a hippie born 25 years too late. He's mellow, positive, and, yes, a little spacy, and he wants to make the world a better place -- one crepe, one gluten-free cake, and one perfect pour-over coffee at a time. Of course, his ready smile and inherent sweetness could also be the result of a happy childhood (he speaks of his family often) and the kind of Midwestern upbringing that fosters openness and sincerity.
He describes the nascent Jeff Kraus as a "super-young, super-naive vegetarian," trying to find himself when he enrolled in The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago after high school. A few months in, he dropped out and started rambling, taking a job at a gas station/restaurant in Tennessee, where he pumped gas and fried chicken (gack!).
More rambling and a few catering gigs later, Kraus landed at AMF Bowling (he grew up bowling and bowled regionally for a time), working in Food and Beverage Management for three years. When a college degree seemed like a good idea, Kraus earned a bachelor's in Behavioral Science, later taking a job in ad sales at the Indianapolis Star.
On a recreational trip to Lake Tahoe, he had a layover in Phoenix and fell in love at first sight, asked for a transfer from Gannett and landed here in 2006. Later, he jumped to Monster, where he stayed for another three years before a trip to Paris changed his life.
Electrified by the freewheeling aspects of street food and not being a "tie guy", he came back to Phoenix and founded Truckin' Good Food, winning Best Food Truck from New Times and 8th Most Influential Food Truck from Klout in 2010. In 2011, Kraus earned America's Top 20 Mobile Concept award from QSR, and just this summer, he and his partner Erin Ware opened Crepe Bar in Tempe, where he hopes to build a small community of friends and food-lovers.
How is brick-and-mortar different from food truck?: Better gas mileage!
What's the great thing about food trucks?: You always get to go where the party is.
How did you get the food truck idea?: I was on a flight -- not wanting to return to the daily grind of what I was doing for a living.
Who was your food truck audience?: Food enthusiasts, families, old-timers . . . the diversity of people who came to the truck was awesome!
How did you feel about being named one of 10 Most Influential Food Trucks by Huffington Post?: Thinking about it fuels my fire. It's pretty truckin' cool, but there's so much more to do and be known for. When did you develop a love for food and cooking?: A long time ago when my ma gave me a choice between doing dishes or peeling potatoes.
Favorite food smell: Ham, beans, and cornbread. And chocolate chip cookies.
Favorite thing to eat growing up: Corn on the cob, sautéed mushrooms, S.O.S. (a.k.a. shit on a shingle), fried catfish, and hand-turned rock salt ice cream.
Trend you wish would go away: Labels such as comfort, artisan, deconstructed, and handcrafted.
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Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House James Porter of Petite Maison Johnny Chu of SoChu House Neo Asian + Martini Bar Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Chris Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge Chris Curtiss of NoRTH Arcadia Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles