Feature Life

Food Trucks of New Brunswick: Cheese Please

The Cheese Please truck set up at Knowledge Park (Image: Cara Smith/Huddle Today)

Cheese Please has been through a lot of changes in trends, tastes and bylaws during its four years of operation, but always with one goal in mind: “We aim to cheese.”

Co-owner Jack Youssef, a lawyer by trade, runs most of the social media while his business partner Tony El-Amm runs the truck itself, serving up their gourmet grilled cheese.

We checked in with Jack Youssef to find out what’s changed for them over the years since they first started serving up cheesy goodness.

Customers wait in line at the Cheese Please truck set up at Knowledge Park in Fredericton (Image: Cara Smith/Huddle Today)

How did the truck get started?

It started off as a hobby exercise for two foodies that saw the trend coming and were very interested in creating something fun and new. We got mixed up with another one of my old friends, Steve Rae, and he’s always been a bit of a cook so we got him in to make us some different types of grilled cheese and it started from there. Steve was a friend and employee with us and he has his own business now called Rocket Burger … It’s just a couple of guys who do it more as a hobby. Tony has his own restaurant and I’m a lawyer by trade.

Do you just have the one truck?

We only have intentions of doing one, although we could franchise out quite easily. Our system is pretty perfected now. Sometime in the next couple years, if it all continues to go well, we’ll franchise out and let other people take the brand.

What was it about this sort of business that made you want to be involved?

We’re both Lebanese so culturally we’re big food people. Lebanese people, we love feeding people. It’s one of the things we do. In Lebanon, eating is a social activity. [Tony] was already in the restaurant business so it was kind of a natural thing. This trailer fell out of nowhere. It used to belong to the Kinsmen for many years and it sat dying a very slow death and somehow he got a hold of it and that’s how we got into it.

The trailer fell out of nowhere. It used to belong to the Kinsmen for many years and it sat dying a very slow death and somehow he got a hold of it and that’s how we got into it.

At that time – four years ago seems like not very long ago – food trucks were just kind of getting popular. Four years ago, too, the law was very different with respect to food trucks, at least in Fredericton it was, and we had no idea getting started how much was involved.

How would you describe what you serve? Where did the inspiration come from?

Cheese Please’s turkey dinner grilled cheese

At the time, Tony really wanted to get into a food truck and at first, he was thinking maybe Lebanese food. My friend Steve Rae was making grilled cheese for fun at the time, and Tony had also mentioned grilled cheese because he saw some grilled-cheese-type based businesses out of New York City and from some of the bigger cities.

When I contacted Steve Rae, we just gave him a budget and let him go out and buy a bunch of different cheeses and different kinds of meats and we created a framework for what type of product we wanted to sell … We wanted to make something that was very unique, very different, very focused and we wanted to use all locally sourced, higher end ingredient.

We love the brand. We love to say “stay cheesy” and “we aim to cheese.” It’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if I would want to do it as a main source of income.

What’s changed for you since you started?

The laws have changed. Getting locations was nearly impossible four years ago, trying to find a way you could actually operate at a profit by not being in a market model was very difficult. Now, cities are clamouring, events are clamouring, weddings are clamouring, they all want mobile food because it’s more convenient and it’s priced competitively and it’s no longer the hot dog and french-fry-type concept. You have much more advanced foods and trucks and business owners that are doing this.

Now in Fredericton you can pretty much operate a mobile food business on any property with the consent of the owner, which is a huge step.