The tale of I ❤️ Bacon Food Truck starts long ago when Keith Hill and Josh Patrick were vibrant young men, about 21 years old. Long before they had more grey hairs than not, they met as young DJs, performing in dance clubs in Muscle Shoals, AL. Not long after their introduction by a mutual DJ friend, they began working together in the DJ booth and became fast friends. After late nights spent in Muscle Shoals recording studios and parties, the two began partnering on small concerts and business ventures. At this point, they felt like old friends and their personalities meshed well for conducting business.
Fast forward a few years, Josh graduates college at The University of North Alabama and moves to Birmingham. Keith moves back to Huntsville. They both continue evolving their respective careers as nightclub promoters and DJs. Keith moves into concert touring and production. Josh becomes interested in the restaurant business and enrolls in culinary school at Culinard in Birmingham.
It's 2011, Josh has graduated culinary school, worked in fine dining under notable regional chefs, gotten married, moved to Phoenix, AZ, and has taken a job as The JW Marriott Resort's sushi chef in Scottsdale. Keith is out touring the country with rock band, 311 and falls in love with the food truck culture in New York City, Orlando, Portland, Austin, and California. The duo keep in touch regularly and slowly their conversations start revolving mostly around recipes and food trends. They spend a year or so sending random text messages to each other, sometimes in the middle of the night, about what groundbreaking item "this chef" or "that chef" is doing or whatever amazing meals they had eaten that week. The unknowing future partners have started to stash away what little money they could save for a rainy day. Their conversations progressively transcend into a never-ending barrage of "what if?" and "wouldn't it be cool if" scenarios. Constantly full of big dreams and crazy ideas that always lose steam and get forgotten about, Keith begins constructing a makeshift concept and casual mentions it to Josh a few times. He never even entertains the idea that it will actually take shape.
The year 2013 rolls around and Josh calls with bad news, "Well buddy, it looks I'm getting a divorce," he says. After the conversation, Josh tells his old friend that he's going on somewhat of a sabbatical to find a new path for his life. He's going out to hit the reset button and get his head straight before he starts over. He sells his home in Phoenix, sends his stuff home to Florence, Alabama in a U-Haul, packs his camping and hiking gear up into his car, and heads for the mountains and national parks of the American West. As he checks in before heading out for his journey, Keith once again casually mentions the "concept" that they had kept half joking about. Josh reassures Keith that he will think about it on his trip and they wish each other well until they speak again. He spends nearly a month camping, hiking, exploring, and photographing the wonders of the west, while he ponders the fork in the road.
As he sits atop a ridge line in the last stop of his journey, Canyonlands National Park in Utah, Josh's phone interrupts the silence. Keith is on the other end and simply says, "Hey man.. this is going to sound kind crazy but... come home to Alabama and let's start a damn food truck! How does 'I Love Bacon' sound? I've got a plan.. I just need a chef!" he says. Josh pauses and ponders for a minute, wondering what Keith could possibly be getting him into this time.. after a couple minutes of quiet reflection, he replies "I'll be home in a week. Find us a truck and let's get started!"
While waiting for Josh's return, Keith begins scouring the internet for trucks and finds an old beater ex nacho truck in Atlanta that's double their shoestring budget. When Josh returns home, Keith has made the phone calls and scheduled the trip to take a look at this "old beater." They pool every bit of cash they have hidden in the mattresses and road trip to Atlanta.
Having their first look at the truck they realize it needs A LOT of work. The duo leaves the truck to have lunch and discuss the pros and cons of the deal. They come to an agreement that if the couple, who are looking to offload their burden, agrees to their extremely lowball offer, this has potential and is "the one." Surprisingly, the couple decides to accept their offer, which is very much under asking price, and they exchange their cash for the keys.
Now, the challenge is to figure out whether or not it's road-worthy and how exactly to get "old beater" home to Huntsville. The Bacon Brothers make a deal to leave the truck there for a week or two to decide how to approach transporting their new baby. Then, after taking bids on transporting, the guys realize that they have blown their budget on the purchase and if they pay to tow it, they don't have money to buy food to sell when they do get it home. After a week of discussion and optimistic persuasion, Josh's dad reluctantly agrees to tag along over to Atlanta and follow Josh home in "old beater." After a long slow drive full of constant rattles, bangs, creaks, squeals from the engine belts, and steadily dimming headlights due to a faulty alternator... Josh pulls up in "old beater," beaming with pride, right as the battery goes completely dead and the truck dies with a sputter right in the middle of the parking lot. Now it's time to get to work.
Luckily, one of their friends owns a nightclub, and nice enough to let them store their hunk of junk there. They immediately tear into "old beater" out back of the club. The boys dismantle the truck's entire interior and steam clean everything floor to ceiling, which was LONG OVERDUE. Weeks of running new power, replacing plumbing, cleaning and replacing broken kitchen equipment take it's toll, but they steam ahead.
Now, it's time for the graphic wrap and after getting quotes from every sign shop in town, they realize that they can't afford this either. They convince themselves that it's a must, "But, the full color wrap is what gives a truck it's credibility and personality and we absolutely can't go without it!" They decide to do it themselves, which seems simple enough, especially since neither of the two had ever done it... They cant afford to have the truck wrapped, nor do they have a facility large enough to do it. Last minute, in steps another friend, owners of the largely famous Chuckwagon BBQ offer up some space in their warehouse for the boys to use and tackle their feat. The wrap gets printed by the lowest bidder and they get to work on this impossibly difficult task. After a few reprints & what seems like 2 months of working until 3 am, the wrap is finally complete. To this day, Keith still jokingly asks "Do you know why it costs so much to have a vehicle wrapped?" His reply,"Because it's worth every single penny!"
The truck is now clean, insured, permitted, and ready to work! They boys start relentlessly hounding all of their other friends that own other businesses, "Please let us set up outside!" Reluctantly, some do and it slowly starts to gain popularity. The social media likes and comments start to climb. Day after day, the hype builds little by little and people on the street are overheard talking about "bacon truck." Shortly after, they receive an email asking if they want to take part in the newly forming food truck rallies in Downtown Huntsville. "Here we go! We've arrived!," Keith texts to Josh. Then, on a drive across town on the day of the 1st food truck rally, stocked with fresh goodies.....the truck breaks down. Defeated was the feeling, all around.
Luckily, the truck was invited back to the next rally, but they realized they needed help. Help once again came in the form of a friend. Sammy, the owner of the nightclub they were still djing at, showed up at the last moment and got a brief rundown on how the iPad POS credit card system worked, all while staring down a line of what seemed like 5000 hungry people. They asked aloud if everyone knew what they were doing. All replied with a resounding "NO!" Then, after downing a few bottled waters, they opened the window to the hot June sun. After a whirlwind of 45 minute ticket times, orders full of errors, layers of paper tickets at their feet, food scraps on all surfaces, and dehydrated exhaustion; they realized that this was the hardest money they had ever earned in their lives and wondered if it was worth it. After the chaos wound down and heart rates decreased, they realized how rewarding it all felt. The love and enthusiasm from the customers, the votes of confidence from their friends and colleagues who stopped by to show support, and the positive feedback made it all worthwhile. They decided that this was definitely their new path, however stressful it may be.
After 4 summers and basically very little money in their pockets, the boys are still at it and "old beater" is still on the road. Truck number 2 has opened in Birmingham and a brick & mortar restaurant exists in Cullman, AL in Mae's Food Hall. Who knows what else is in the cards as the company grows!?
The story of I ❤️ Bacon is still being written, chapter by chapter. Stay tuned for what's next!