NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — As a teenager, Jesse Bouchard got to tag along with his big sister to her job at The Breakers Inn in Scarborough, a big bed-and-breakfast right on the coast. He thought while she worked, he’d hang out at the beach. That plan didn’t last very long.
Pretty soon, when they needed help in the kitchen -- they put him to work. Washing dishes, changing the occasional light bulb, and quickly – learning how to cook. "There was a woman that did baking there and she would tell me all about how to make a pie crust, how to make the perfect cookie, and she just wanted to teach me what she knew – I just listened. So I was working in a kitchen at a very young age and loved it couldn’t get enough of it," says Jesse.
Fast forward a few decades, and as chef jobs go, Jesse Bouchard worked his way in to pretty good gig. He was the executive chef at Piper Shores, an upscale retirement community in Scarborough. Regular hours, an adoring customer base, an idyllic setting in which to pursue his passion. And the daily task of feeding hundreds of residents. "Starting a new company was not on the horizon for me."
But his good friends from college were starting a brewery, and they wanted nothing to do with serving food. Russell Voss is the owner of NU Brewery in New Gloucester. "Most people they just wanna have a couple beers? And then they go “Wow! I’m hungry!” and we’re in New Gloucester and there aren’t a lot of options so …"
"They wanted somebody to do a food truck and I was like no way, but then I started thinking about it over the course of a month, two months, started drawing out to notes and planning it," says Jesse. He did his homework, discovering that food trucks are the number one small business in our country right now. Before long, he had a truck, secured permits and – most importantly – began building those local relationships that would fuel his menu. Sourcing local, homegrown food is the key to his success. A customer suggested that he check out the beef from D’ameri Acres in Gray. "The next morning I came right over here and that night was the best burger I’ve ever had my life. I’m serious...it’s like tear drip down my cheek. I was like this is going to be in my food truck, I’ve been here ever since."
Potatoes, onions, carrots – all grown nearby. With a short growing season in Maine, there are challenges. "My wife and I we wanted to use corn year-round. Corn doesn’t grow in Maine year-round. We bought 400 pounds of corn, cut it off, blanched it, froze it immediately and we pull one a week and we use it in the food truck every single week. That’s one way of using a local product all year round." By his side, because – lets face it – how else can you cook in a food truck, is Mindy, Jesse’s wife. "Having a strong person behind me is what I need and we get to work together more now. She comes and helps me on the weekends we spend a lot more time together, I love it."
Mindy Bouchard was not surprised by this new business venture. "I knew someday that he would do something on his own, and I was ready. I loved it."
From their tiny kitchen, Jesse and Mindy serve up the story of each meal. "I won’t just say 'you just ordered the 'pho -ga'' which is a Vietnamese style noodle bowl. I will tell them a little bit about what makes it local. I chose to do a Vietnamese style noodle bowl but there’s no MSG in it. And that’s a traditional aspect of the noodle bowl, so I used Maine sea salt, and I use Maine chicken, so the two items together are what make the dish from Maine."
Offering the best that their community has to offer – one dish at a time – is what drives the Yolked Food Truck. If you would like to learn more about the Yolked Food truck, click here, and for information about the NU Brewery, click here.