Columbus Knife Fight Club had their inaugural face-off at The Food Fort over the weekend. Challah! Food Truck challenged Swoop! Food Truck to a cook off that required each chef to use three key ingredients: blueberries, dried ancho chiles, and rabbit. Challah Food Truck won the competition, taking home the coveted WWF belt as well as culinary bragging rights.
The Food Fort, a cutting-edge, mobile food-based business incubator, is not your typical commissary. By providing their clients access to specialized training in legal, marketing and sales assistance, as well as a fully-functioning kitchen for cooking, baking and prep needs, The Food Fort strives to give its members access to untapped markets and networks that help optimize employment opportunities.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for our members to be introduced to a whole new audience,” says Alicia Grantham, Manager of The Food Fort. “QFM 96 reaches hundreds of thousands of listeners daily. By partnering with such a prominent player in the Central Ohio region, our members have become quite excited.”
The Food Truck Festival will take place at QFM 96’s radio station, just south of Westerville. With plans to feature a prominent line-up of live music throughout the day, promotional give-aways, as well as delectable food from more than 25 of Central Ohio’s most popular mobile “foodie-preneurs,” The Food Truck Festival expects to attract thousands of QFM 96 fans, as well as curious food connoisseurs.
“We are so excited to be partnering with The Food Fort for the first ever QFM 96 Food Truck Fest,” Sue Leighton, QFM 96 Promotions Director says. “I see that as an incredible way to celebrate with our clients and engage our community…and it’s a perfect event for our listeners! I really can’t wait! Bring on the food trucks!”
QFM 96’s Food Truck Festival will be located at QFM 96’s studio, 2400 Corporate Exchange Dr., Columbus, Ohio, 43231, from noon – 7 p.m. Interested foodies can dine on offerings from Pitabilities, Swoop! Food Truck, OH! Burgers, Herb’n Food Truck, Flat Top Pizza, Red Plate Blue Plate, A Cut Above, Dos Hermanos, Culvers of Reynoldsburg, J Pops, Sweet! Mobile Cupcakery, Loops, Challah!, Kinetic, Blu Olive, Lily’s Mini Donuts, Smok’n Cantina, Fun’l Frenzy, Tortilla, Taco Sherpa, Mangia Dolce, Donatos Street Pizza, Kenny’s Meat Wagon, and more.
The Food Fort is an extension of the non-profit, The Economic and Community Development Institute. Located at 737 Parkwood Ave., The Food Fort has been operating since 2011. If interested in becoming a Food Fort member, booking a mobile vendor for your event, or to simply learn more about The Food Fort’s offerings, please call 614-732-0573.
Brian Thornton, owner and operator of OH!Burgers, is a food industry vet. Starting in high school at Skyline chili, Brian realized that he loved the atmosphere. “I liked serving people food and just making people happy through food,” he says of that first experience. “I decided to go to culinary arts school with the intention of someday opening my own restaurant.” He wasted no time leaving for the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago). After finishing at CHIC, Brian attended OSU for Business management while working a series of restaurant jobs, including Hyde Park steakhouse and the Refractory.
The a-ha moment came when Brian attended the Food Truck Fest at Columbus Commons, thinking to himself – and I quote – “Well, that’s pretty freakin’ sweet!” Now that he had an idea to work towards, Brian once again put his nose to the grindstone, making a business plan for OH!Burgers while working at 89 Fish & Grill (formerly Michael O’ Tool’s).
There are two real stand out aspects to OH!Burgers- The miniature size of the burgers, and the replacement of the standard-issue side of fries with freshly fried sweet potato chips. “We saw the burger trucks and realized they were running super slow, so we wanted mini burgers. And we didn’t want to have a fryer on during the day so that’s why we chose chips,” Brian told me.
His formula seems to be working: OH!Burgers is running full time, and Brian’s chips started selling out within the first year. He turned to EDCI’s food business incubator, the Food Fort, for help. “I started looking for a new fryer, and started bugging Food Fort about running a fryer here. They allowed me to buy the fryer and put it in and start frying.” It has been a successful relationship. Of the Food Fort, Brian told me “The collaboration between the food truck owners, the food cart owners, different caterers, stuff like that is something that’s helped. Drove my business, I know that for sure.”
The chips are so successful, that Brian has shifted his focus. The potential is such that he is working as fast as he can to get them in stores- “I’ve already had people contact me about [that]… I’m turning people away right now to be honest with you. The chips have a much higher potential than the truck does.”
Future plans for Brian include opening a warehouse to increase production of his sweet potato and kettle chips. He hopes to begin operating from the warehouse in September 2014. You can find OH!Burgers at 4 String Brewing Company Friday nights or at http://www.streetfoodfinder.com. Connect with OH!Burgers on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OHBurgers) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/OH_Burgers).
By Evan Schieber
Columbus-ite Thomas Adams was an expert in the tire business. Between doing global product development, selling for a large account on the east coast, and working as head of marketing for the U.S. branch of a global tire company, it’s safe to say that he had found a comfortable niche. However, after 30 years in the industry, the cracks were beginning to show.
“The last two or three years, every 8 weeks I was in China,” Said Adams. “I loved the people, but it’s rough…my health was starting to suffer, and quality of life was just tough.” After 30 years, Adams was ready to take on a new venture.
After leaving the tire industry, Adams found himself having a light-bulb moment while working in soup kitchens in Philadelphia. He realized that he could culminate his interests in fresh food and asset based community development by running a gourmet food truck.
Adams started his food truck endeavor Red Plate Blue Plate with a used Utilimaster van. After a bumpy start (his first test-drive led to his engine catching ablaze), Adams worked out the kinks and settled into serving Charleston-inspired southern coastal style of cuisine. “Kind of where the garden and the shore meet in the Carolinas, down to Georgia” Adams says.
Through an internet search for commissary kitchens, Adams found an ally in the ECDI powered Food Fort-a food business incubator featuring a licensed commissary and a full sized commercial kitchen. It provides him with many resources.
“I was on gravel before. I have sanitation here, I have an inside sink, I have a prep area. I don’t have to do absolutely everything on the truck which is what I had to do last year,” Adams noted. Adams also discovered that his personal philosophy aligned with that of the Food Fort. “The heart of ECDI is economic-based community development, so I have an instant alignment here,” he said.
Adams has big ideas driven by asset-based community development- a technique Thomas learned at his church, Sanctuary of Columbus. Asset-based community development helps communities empower themselves by taking inventory of the strengths and assets they possess. One such idea is Red Plate Blue Plate’s alter ego, Abe’s Kitchen.
“[Abe’s Kitchen] owns this thing called a H.E.A.T. menu: Healthy, Economical, and Tasty. Imagine a dollar menu, like one dollar, two dollar, four dollars. And one dollar gets you a nice, healthy, high value sandwich. Two dollars gets you a sandwich and a side. Four dollars and you’re carrying dinner home” Adams explained. Driven by food and time donated by the community it’s serving in, Abe’s Kitchen would be an example of the effectiveness of asset based community development.
Red Plate Blue Plate maintains an updated calendar at streetfoodfinder.com. In the future, they hope to develop partnerships with the burgeoning growler and brewpub industry in the University District. For questions and booking, Thomas Adams can be contacted at or (614) 859-0809.
–Evan started working as an intern at ECDI’s Food Fort in April of 2014. He has been working closely with its director to develop new informational materials for the Food Fort as well as a portfolio of client-focused photographs. A native of Columbus, Evan has a passion for cycling advocacy and photography. Evan is currently studying writing at Antioch College, and is in Columbus for his cooperative work term. He can be reached at eschieber (at) ecdi.org, or by phone at (614) 559-0193.–
There are few simple pleasures better than friends gathering in a kitchen, sharing laughter and delicious food.
This winter, the Food Fort opened its kitchen to India Latham of culinary operation FlavorSuites for a dynamic Culinary Basics course, and that’s exactly what happened. India invited members of her women’s ministry to spend an afternoon in the Fort’s commercial kitchen, and taught them how to translate their new skills to their home kitchens.
FlavorSuites specializes in culinary entertainment, seasonal specialty baked foods, consulting and education. Everywhere she goes, India carries that love of culinary education with her. “I’m always being approached on how to do so many things in the kitchen,” India explained. “I thought it was important to give [our women’s ministry] a proper foundation to start with.” The course covered subjects like safety and sanitation, kitchen appliances, and budget-friendly, healthy meal preparation.
India ended the course by inviting all the women to prepare breakfast egg muffins and fresh smoothies. “Being able to host at the Food Fort’s commercial kitchen, we had so much space and equipment available. The environment was conducive to learning and educating. The ladies learned a lot!”
We at the Food Fort were delighted to host FlavorSuites, whose worldwide perspective allows them to turn classic dishes into globally-inspired cuisine. FlavorSuites is available for catering, as well as customizable consulting and culinary courses. Learn more at www.FlavorSuites.com.
Interested in hosting your own culinary event at the Food Fort? Contact us today for a tour of our fully-licensed, state of the art commercial kitchens!