Food Truck Frenzy

Michael Brown of Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express

The business: Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express

What they're packin': New Orleans- style dishes with a familiar, easy twist: Think Cajun favorites like Andouille sausage and shrimp, chicken and rice doused with zesty Creole and Etoufee sauce - all wrapped in a handy tortilla. There are even Cajun or Creole Tacos on the menu, served with cabbage slaw and black bean and corn salsa.

What you need to know: The owner, Michael Brown, knows his Big Easy eats, but keeps it healthy. He's developed a way to create authentic Cajun food without using fat for flavor and instead adding whole, natural ingredients like sea salt, brown rice and his own salt-free spice mix called "magic dust." He believes that New Orleans- style food can be as good for the body as it is on the palette. 

  The story: Under the guidance of two chefs from New Orleans, Brown, who has over 20 years of cooking experience, began studying the "Chipotle fast-casual concept" with Cajun cuisine. He started a mobile food truck, he says, "because it gives people a chance to try the food in a convenient manner, and [accessibility] is the main idea."

Read more about Jamburritos after the jump.

Where'd you get the name?
MB: Basically, our signature item is Jambalaya in a burrito, so we took the words and molded them together. The name can mean different things to different people, though. Some people say it's a burrito that "jams." A burrito also seems to lend itself to quick service, and it's a Cajun grill express.

Describe your culinary background:

MB: I studied restaurant and hotel management and in the 80's, I went to New Orleans, knocked on doors and asked people to teach me Cajun cooking. Later I became the executive chef of a successful Cajun restaurant in the tri-state area; we expanded to two more in less than 6 years. But I wanted to serve more people and in a quicker way.

Describe any issues you came across with getting your operation off the ground:
MB: My mentor was instrumental in getting me through the permit process and with his guidance, no issues arose. The biggest challenge in the business is that we're pioneers in Arizona. [A mobile food truck] is not as embraced here as much as in L.A. or New York, so that's difficult.

Do you get people who are a little skeptical of the cart?

MB: If they're at the truck, their skepticism has been overcome, but most of the time it's people from New Orleans or hardcore Cajun fans who are skeptics of the Jambaylaya-in-a-burrito concept. My biggest excitement though is when newcomers approach and order a jamburrito, no questions asked.

With plans of expanding to 16 brick-and-mortar locations in the next five years, Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express currently sets up at the Phoenix Public Market from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and every third Thursday at the Whole Foods on Raintree in Scottsdale. Brown will have a cooking class at the Phoenix Public Market at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10; you can sign up here.

Stay updated via the Jamburritos website; like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

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Hannah Hayes