Mobile concession stand Greenskeeper Foods began in October 2016 with one overarching goal: bring the community together, which co-owner and chef Zack Johnson said is his aim.
“One day I was a chef in Indy, and I realized, you know what, I’m not doing what I started out to do,” Johnson said. “You get into food to share it with people — to bring them together — and I lost touch with that. We came back to Bloomington, where I opened my first kitchen, where the community is great to us.”
Greenskeeper Foods will become integrated into the weekly Farmers’ Market beginning May 20. The business is slowly growing not only to provide the service of healthy, locally sourced dishes made with the help of local chefs, but also share demonstrations and eventually products people can use in their own homes.
Johnson said he and his brother Josh are the only full-time chefs, though a few other professionals from around Bloomington will hop behind the mobile kitchen to provide food at locations such as Upland Brewery.
The food truck provides a contrast to the kitchens Johnson has worked in since his time at the Chef’s Academy at Harrison College and his travels around various kitchens in the U.S. and abroad, he said.
“When you’re a chef, you’re behind closed doors, and it’s controlled chaos,” Johnson said. “The good thing about having a mobile kitchen is that you get to interact with the customers. At the end of the day, I get the hands-on experience. I get to talk to people. It’s not just about what we’re selling.”
Working with his brother has been a positive experience because of how their aims to emphasize community and togetherness match up, Johnson said. Growing up in a family that ate at the table together often was formative in the need to connect through food.
“It goes back to what made me fall in love with the kitchen in the first place — food brings people together,” Johnson said. “My family is important, and I want to have a business that brings back those same ideals. Also, Bloomington is great in diversity. We have a lot of great students and a lot of great businesses.”
During his travels to various locations including South Carolina and South Korea, Johnson said he was always curious about ways to improve as a chef. Once he realized his motivations were changing, he took a step back and decided he did not have to become the best chef in the world to be happy.
He said now he thinks one of the most important parts of being a chef is being able to look at the community and think about ways to share global cuisine can be integrated into his own cooking.
“When I was in Korea, I had to eat a live octopus,” Johnson said. “I had a translator, and he kind of put me on the spot and said if you want to taste Korea, you have to taste live octopus. There are sunny days I stop and think I could go for live octopus right now. We want people to try new things, experience new things.”
Germany is the next step for four of the chefs involved in Greenskeeper, Johnson said. They will soon travel to Europe to experiment with street and local cuisine to see what to integrate into their menu as soon as they return and begin selling at the Farmers’ Market.
Their business plan is more fluid, but definitely includes sharing food knowledge through demonstrations and selling ingredients as well as their complete food products, Johnson said. Collaborations with IU and the Hoosier Hills Food Bank are among the tentative goals.
Though the market was one of many things not in their original plan, Johnson said he is looking forward to the opportunity to meet more farmers and growers.
“You come up with a business plan, and you say ‘I know how this will go,’” Johnson said. “You start having this plan and it starts to go this way and that. I had no idea this many people would already be calling us.”
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