Culinary Apprenticeship Grad Launches Thriving Business
What started as a random idea to pass time has turned into entrepreneurial success story and burgeoning career. After serving a 22-year military career with the Army and Marines, Edgard Sanchez retired to civilian life in 2011. Like many of our veterans returning home, Sanchez bounced around several jobs trying to find his passion. In 2013, working as a receiving assistant in an Atlanta warehouse, he encountered a piece of mail that would alter the path of his life. With curiosity, Sanchez read through one of our Course catalog magazines and came across a story highlighting Veterans in our Culinary Apprenticeship program.
“I was looking for a change, and I’ve always loved cooking,” Edgard said. “I took this class because it sounded interesting. I wasn’t looking for a new career. I was just looking to fill some of my free time. Every time I came to class, it was awesome. I learned so much.”
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Having two daughters preparing for college, Edgard transferred his GI Bill benefits giving them an opportunity he never had. However, upon further discovery, he realized he qualified for additional VA funding through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services. This provided him with nine months of funding which aligned perfectly with our culinary program’s duration. “Without that program, I would not have been able to attend culinary school, and I never would’ve been able to launch my truck business,” he said.
Working during the day and attending class at night, his journey began to catch the watchful eye of his warehouse supervisor Milton Mouzon. A longtime entrepreneur himself, Mouzon once owned a hot dog cart while in college and has garnered PowerSeller status on eBay.
“He always encouraged me to think bigger,” Edgard said of Milton. “It was his idea for me to start a food truck business. I didn’t think he was serious at first but he kept pushing me.”
Milton was convinced of Edgard’s talent and potential to succeed the second he bit into one of his signature Bayou Burgers at a family picnic. Milton’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked into high gear and he began mentoring Sanchez as the two eventually became business partners. With Milton’s backing, Edgard began bidding on a truck he found on eBay. After losing the online auction, it was back to square one – until the phone rang. “The man who was auctioning the truck called and said the top bidder had a change of heart and offered it to me,” Edgard said. “I thought it was a joke and it was too good to be true.” It wasn’t and he was on his way to Virginia to pick up what was to become his new food truck.
Losing His Wheels
After saying goodbye to his warehouse job and launching his food truck business in November 2014, it became an inauspicious start for Edgard. While driving to downtown Atlanta for his first gig, the rear two tires become loose and detached from the truck. It eventually had to be towed to SkyView Atlanta — where he was stationed from January to April 2015 as the Ferris wheel’s sole food truck vendor.
Rolling to New Heights
Following a year of building awareness and being the new guy on the block, he is primed for a prosperous 2016. “We’re putting out quality food and are starting to get positive reviews and repeat customers,” he said. “We’ve built a strong social media presence and food truck bookies are now pursuing us!”
Currently, there are about 120 food trucks rolling through Atlanta – which is much less than comparable cities. With Atlanta’s market relatively new compared to others of similar size, Edgard is predicting a boom as it trends upward. “I didn’t realize there are foodies that follow trucks everywhere,” he said. “This gives people an added convenience that’s better than fast food.”
Edgard’s vision for the coming year is to secure more catering events. His long-term plans are to build the business over the next three years and be in a position to sell it. His lifelong dream is to move to Costa Rica, and start a bed and breakfast business with his wife, Angel. For now, you can anticipate looking for the cartoon Edgard Sanchez with the big thumbs up to roll through a food truck park near you.
1. Take advantage of your apprenticeship experience
2. Learn as much as you can from your mentorship from class and apprenticeship chefs
3. Collect as much advice and tips as you can
4. Do your own thing and have fun with it
5. If you’re interested in launching a food truck business: Try working on a food truck first to learn how it operates.
DID YOU KNOW?
Edgard’s food truck business is called “C’est Tout Bon 2 Eat,” which is French for “It’s All Good To Eat.” His Cajun menu is a tribute to New Orleans, where he spent most of his childhood.
• Bayou burgers
• Garden dog
• Pimento grilled cheese
• Crawfish egg rolls
• Shrimp po-boy