When discussing the highs and lows of food truck ownership, chef Michael Brown of Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express knows they can happen at any time -- sometimes around the same time.
The ex-New Yorker, who started his food truck featuring New Orleans-style dishes with a twist over two years ago, is currently in the process of securing a brick-and-mortar space downtown for a Jamburritos with a twist of its own. And days ago, he was rejected by the Food Network for a new show (think Iron Chef meets a restaurateur-centered concept) he was asked to audition for.
"I didn't make Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race audition in 2011, either," Brown says. "But that isn't going to stop me. I'm like Abe Lincoln. He lost a lot of elections before he became president."
Brown says the twice-rejection by the Food Network won't keep him from trying a third time. After all, he tells me, he's already been on a few local television shows and feels comfortable in front of the camera.
"I don't mind submitting videos to casting directors," he says. "But one time I went to California with around 1,000 other folks to try out for America's Next Great Restaurant. It wasn't worth the time and expense."
No matter. Brown's focusing on the next level for his food truck business: a brick-and-mortar space in downtown Phoenix -- near the US Airways Center -- that he'd like to see open in late August. Although he won't give the exact location until the deal is finalized, Brown tells me the space is around 1,700 square feet and can seat around 13 tables plus more on an outside patio. And unlike the Jamburritos truck (which Brown plans to keep running), the Jamburritos space will allow customers to build their Cajun-Mexican fusion dishes Chipotle-style and with more ingredient options than can be offered on the truck.
Why the move from wheels to walls?
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"It's not easy to run a food truck in Phoenix," Brown says. "Our laws haven't caught up with the rest of the country. Seasonally, many people aren't here three months out of the year. And there's not a huge nightlife scene."
Along with the new brick-and-mortar location, Brown says Jamburritos is getting a new mascot as well.
"We're calling him Jazzy Jamburrito. He's a cool, saxophone-playing crawfish. I'd like to get someone who can actually play the saxophone, but it's a lot easier to find someone who will wear the suit and just let the sax music be electronic."