Meet the Tennesseans Fighting for Food Truck Freedom

November 20, 2023 9:06AM

Beacon recently launched a new case representing three innovative entrepreneurs from Middle Tennessee and their food truck businesses. You can read more about the case here.

Daniel Yarzagaray is a lifelong Nashville-area resident and the owner of Chivanada, a Colombian food truck built from a repurposed school bus specializing in empanadas. The food truck business is the perfect way for Daniel to pursue two of his lifelong passions: cooking and entrepreneurship. As a teenager, Daniel had a business baking heirloom wholegrain bread. Daniel’s father worked in information technology at Vanderbilt hospital, so Daniel regularly took orders and delivered his bread to hospital workers. In college, Daniel majored in entrepreneurship. He was inspired to start Chivanada in 2016 when he went to Colombia to visit his grandmother. The art buses in Colombia are called chivas (Spanish for goats), so Daniel thought of Chivanada as a combination of Colombian art buses and empanadas. Chivanada is a family business. Daniel’s brother Kai, for example, is responsible for the creative aspects and spent eight months hand painting one of their three food trucks. 

Daniel says that Chivanada has always been there for Mt. Juliet residents, but the city council has never been there for Chivanada. The food truck gave out free food to residents in the aftermath of the 2020 tornado and provided a safe option for residents to buy food during the height of the pandemic. Daniel recalls serving 40 to 50 families in one neighborhood during a hailstorm. Daniel strongly believes that food trucks should be accessible, but all the fees eat into thin margins and make food trucks inaccessible to many. Daniel wants to serve residents of Mt. Juliet, but the $100/day fee makes it unfeasible to do so. 

B.J. Lofback is the owner of Funk Seoul Brother, an award-winning food truck that specializes in Korean and Japanese street food. A veteran of the restaurant industry, B.J. started his own food truck because he was tired of answering to restaurant people who were always shooting down his ideas. B.J. believes that food trucks showed restaurants that people wanted better and more interesting food, so he started Riff’s Fine Street Food—a food truck with an ever-changing menu (e.g. black sesame wasabi cookies) to show consumers “this is what we’re jamming to today.” B.J. then decided to specialize in Korean and Japanese street food and created Funk Seoul Brother—a name inspired by the Fatboy Slim single. B.J. is a community organizer and mobilized food trucks to go out to Mt. Juliet and help its residents after the tornado hit the city in 2020. B.J. feels betrayed by government officials who welcomed food trucks in during a crisis and then kicked them out to protect the good old boy network. B.J. wants to serve Mt. Juliet residents, who keep asking him “when are you coming back?” But it does not make sense for him to pay $100 per day to operate in the city. At the end of the day, B.J. says “food trucking is not a crime. I just want people to be happy. Food trucks make people happy.” 

Eileen Maltese and her husband Mikey own Mikey’s Pizza, a food truck that specializes in selling large slices of New York style pizza. Mikey comes from an Italian family and uses family recipes passed down to him. Mikey has been making pizza for 25 years and decided to serve his homemade recipes from food trucks. He and his wife moved to Tennessee from Florida because they thought there was no better place to start a business than in Nashville. They started a food truck in November 2022 because it would allow them to go to where the demand is and provided them with the flexibility they needed to take care of their children. The family especially loves serving customers at schools and music festivals and say that the best food they’ve ever eaten has come from food trucks. Eileen states that the truck makes $700-$1,300 a day and it does not make sense for her to pay the onerous $100/day fee on top of other expenses.