Brother Baby’s BBQ was recently awarded Vendor of the Month at ZeroCater. Just a year into business, this Milpitas food truck has wowed our clients with their authentic smoked meats, homemade sauces, and signature side dishes. Keep reading for how partners John and Ray got started, where they learned to cook, and what they have planned for the future!
How did the business get started?
We started in September of 2014, with our grand opening in October. I hold a business degree but was out of work at the time. My friend of over 20 years is a culinary genius and was really into BBQ. He said to me, “What about a food truck?” I wasn’t getting any offers, so I said, “Let’s go for it!”
Where did you get the inspiration for your truck?
We chose BBQ because there isn’t a lot of good BBQ in our area. We started eating everywhere that served it. We saw a pattern: A place would have good baby back ribs, but the brisket wasn’t as good. The sides always seemed to be an afterthought, always lacking. We thought, “Hm. Not only do we want to do good BBQ, but we want to put our energy into signature sides.” We wanted to give people multiple reasons to come back.
Where did you learn to cook?
I learned from my business partner, Ray. He’s just one of those people who has been cooking all his life.
He smoked all the meats in the beginning, but now I smoke them from beginning to end. We have a staff that helps with food prep, and Ray makes all the recipes and trains the staff.
What’s your favorite dish on your menu?
Brisket is definitely the most popular. My personal favorite is the mac n’ cheese. The hot link sandwich and brisket sandwich are awesome too. If you had to pick one thing, you have to go with the baby back ribs—and I eat them without the sauce.
There’s a misconception that BBQ means sauce, but BBQ refers to smoked meats. We started with a Carolina style, vinegar-based sauce—that was intended to be our thing. We quickly realized people were used to a thicker, sweeter version. So, we created a California style sauce, and provide a hot and mild version for both.
Where do you find inspiration for new dishes? Or decide what goes on your menu?
In the beginning, we just gave the people what they wanted. We didn’t have mac n’ cheese, then people started asking for it. We’ve expanded our offering to include vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan dishes. We just put a new vegan, gluten-free veggie burger on the menu, and it’s served with vegan bread.
We also find inspiration from family and friends. When we first started I told Ray, “My Family has a potato recipe we have to put on the menu.” We ended up creating our own version, and now my relatives think our recipe is better than the family recipe.
Do you have any advice for someone who is just starting in the food truck or restaurant business?
We launched in October and had very dark days in December and January. We started at the end of the season, which was both a bad and good time to start. If you go to an event with 100 people, you need to know what you’re doing. We’ve completely changed how we do things in the past year, resulting in lower ticket times and a wider menu.
Next, I would tell them to put efforts into catering right away. It takes time to get traction in the food truck business. It may take six months to a year to get good food truck stops or large-scale events. Look at catering right away as a second revenue stream. Our first tasting with ZeroCater was at one of our stops, they loved the food, and we’ve been working with you ever since.
In college, did you ever think you would end up in the food truck business? And what are you looking forward to in the future?
You know what’s funny? I literally said, “I will NEVER go into the restaurant business.” For one, you have to right all the time. If you serve 50 people who are happy with their meal, and number 51 is not, that is the one who will be vocal. We look at all negative reviews and make adjustments in order to improve. Our sides, particularly our coleslaw and potato salad, never sit in sauce—they’re cut, tossed, and served fresh off the truck. We once tried prepping them ahead, until someone said, “You know what? Something’s different here.” The recipe was the same, but the timing had changed. Now, people say, “This is the potato salad I’ve ever had!”
In the future, I look forward to cooking for friends and family. Since we’re just a year old, we’re rarely away from the truck. I was never one to cook, but everything we serve, I’ve made: eggplant, mac n’ cheese, and all the meats. So, I look forward to the day when I can wow my family with my knowledge.