21. Grilled Cheese & Restaurant Impossible with Tim of The Melting Truck

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I sit down with Timothy Bristol of The Melting Truck to talk about the food truck he owns, The Melting Truck in Connecticut. I also talk to him about his career and the path that lead to owning a food truck. As we talked, I discovered that Tim has indirectly appeared on Restaurant Impossible, a popular show that is aired on The Food Network.

The Restaurant Impossible episode Tim appears in (Season 4, Episode 5):

The Melting Truck

 The Flaky Foodie 

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Please note that this transcript is computer-generated and only lightly edited. It may contain grammar, syntax and punctuation errors.

Jess 0:03
Hi, it’s Jess and you’re listening to another episode of The flaky foodie podcast. The only show where the discussion is delicious and there’s chatter to chew on. On today’s episode, I have with me Tim. He’s the owner of the melting truck, a food truck located in Connecticut. And while we talk about owning a food truck and his background, an interesting fact that came up is that he’s been on a very popular Food Network show. So coming up right after the break, you won’t want to miss it. We’ll talk with Tim

Did you know that this episode is also on YouTube? to find it search for The Flaky Foodie.

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Welcome back to the flaky foodie Podcast. Today we have Timothy Bristol with us. He’s the owner of the melting truck in Connecticut. So I’m looking forward to having you on the show. And let’s talk about some great food.

Tim B 1:44
All right, that sounds fun.

Jess 1:45
Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about your food truck.

Tim B 1:49
So the melting truck is a gourmet grilled cheese food truck. We started in January 2021. Okay, right in the middle of the pandemic, how is that? It’s been okay. I think food trucks have benefited from the pandemic because they are so mobile. Yes. And it’s not like a sit down restaurant where you have to have all these COVID restrictions. Like of course, we have people you know, if they waited in line, you know, six feet, and then they had to wear masks and all that. But it wasn’t it wasn’t really a hindrance on the business. Unless we were at like events that don’t happen because of COVID like food truck festivals happen a lot less. But you know, you get booked for private events, you get booked for farmer’s markets. So it was it was a learning experience to be sure, but I don’t think it would have been a more difficult year or would have been an easier year had COVID not happened it would I think it would have been about the same for us. Well, the food truck itself like I said, gourmet grilled cheese, we do soups, we do mac and cheese we do you know whatever we can think of that involves cheese.

Jess 2:54
So what’s kind of the best seller of the fan favorite.

Tim B 2:57
We got a couple of fan favorites, the first one. And this kind of took me by surprise because I just sort of like thought it up and put it together. It’s called the pickle melt. And it’s a grilled cheese with just cheddar cheese and bread and butter pickles. And people were

Jess 3:14
Very Interesting. Well yeah, you have like a little bit of sweet and acidity with the cheese. So yeah, I can see that working.

Tim B 3:24
People love adding bacon to it. That’s

Jess 3:27
okay. Yeah, I can see that. But the bit of the salty too

Tim B 3:31
Our other big seller is something we call the extreme melt. It’s a it’s a regular grilled cheese, we call her classic grilled cheese, which is American and cheddar. And then we add a cheddar cheese crust on one side of the grilled cheese and as

Jess 3:46
you’re speaking my language.

Tim B 3:51
Now I’m trying to think of any other like in the summer, we do like a barbecue pork grilled cheese that’s really popular in summer, but I can only do it when it’s warm enough to turn on the smoker that I have.

Jess 4:00
Yeah, I can see that. So are there any like interesting combinations like what’s your artist grilled cheese combination that’s on the menu or that you ever had on the menu.

Tim B 4:14
So this is one that I didn’t think once again was going to sell well and it was suggested to me by another vendor at a farmers market that we were doing he sold spicy jams, and barbecue sauces. And he’s and he gave us a sample of it was called a it was a raspberry Chipotle jam. And he told us to put it with sharp cheddar cheese and it would be delicious. And he was correct. And I did not think that people were gonna like it but it’s it sells pretty good like when we whenever we have the jam, we do it. And it’s always been like popular like markets and stuff like that. It’s not for every crowd, but it’s delicious. It’s one of my favorite sayings

Jess Hodge 4:52
it would be for the me crowd. I love sweet and spicy together Oh wow, that combination. I did an episode on food trends and one of the ones that didn’t make it was like on the cutting room floor was swicy is what they called it swipes. Yeah. Okay, but we’re in April that I haven’t heard heads or tails of Swicy

Tim B 5:17
I don’t know trying to think of any like really unusual real cheeses that we do that that I didn’t think would sell well and they do. I mean we do like the typical stuff like we do tomato, mozzarella and pesto we do chicken Philly grilled cheese. Oh, and this is more of a like a dessert sandwich. And it’s not technically a grilled cheese, but my wife came up with an idea for a smores grilled cheese. That is chocolate sauce, marshmallow fluff and graham cracker crumbs between the bread and you toasted like a grilled cheese. It’s delicious.

Jess 5:54
And that’s vegetarian to marshmallow fluff is vegetarian. It doesn’t have gelatin, like your standard marshmallows. So yes, even I can partake, and

Tim B 6:06
we try to keep our options open with like vegetarian stuff. And we have a bunch of grilled cheeses that our vegetarian, unfortunately, it’s almost impossible for us to do like gluten free stuff, or, or our vegan just because of the way that the truck operates. Like, the grill is constantly covered in bacon grease. So like if we if someone was like strictly vegan and or strictly gluten free because of like, you know, they’re intolerant, they have an intolerance of wheat or flour. Like I, I can’t really do anything about that. Because there’s always like bread on the truck. And it’s touching every surface like, unfortunately. But we do have a bunch of vegetarian grilled cheeses. And and a lot of people come to us because of that, like they reserved. They’re always asking for vegetarian options.

Jess 6:56
Awesome. So why a food truck? How did that idea kind of come to be and, and walk me through the steps and making it happen?

Tim B 7:04
Okay. I’ll preface this by saying that I would never do it again. But so a friend of mine and my partner in the food truck, Mike young, he came to me one day, and he knew that I worked in the restaurant industry and was looking to put together a food truck. I previously worked with a few Italian restaurants. I was on the Food Network once. Oh, really? Yeah. For one of the restaurant impossible. Really? Yeah, I was on the the episode is called the Stella’s Italian restaurant Stella’s a Thai

Jess 7:39
restaurant, I probably have seen that. You still watch? Quite a bit of restaurant impossible after check it out.

Tim B 7:47
Um, I was I was at the very end of the episode, I was one of the line cooks the last like five minutes or so. And I wasn’t supposed to be like, that’s a different crazy story. But after after doing that, I worked at a couple of other Italian restaurants. And I worked on food trucks for other people. For a couple of years. Like I worked on a lobster truck. I worked on a different grilled cheese truck. And I worked for a french fry food truck. Okay. And so I have a food truck experience. And I was looking to put together a food truck and I just didn’t have the money. They’re expensive. And my friends. He was like, Well, if you run the food truck, I’ll put up the money for it. And we’ll be partners. And we did that. And my wife jumped on board because she’s an accountant. So she does our books, which is very important and not something that every food truck has. Yes. Like a lot of independent restaurant owners and food trucks don’t have proper accounting and it’s absolutely necessary Yes,

Jess 8:54
or else you end up on restaurant impossible.

Tim B 9:01
So we formed the the actual business in the summer of 2020. And we went and got ourselves a used food truck around September 2020. We bought it in Maryland and have it driving all the way back to Connecticut, which was its own nightmare. The food truck doesn’t go very fast on the highway, like It tops out at 60. So there are a lot of angry people behind me for several states. Oh, wow. And so we got it back. It was a huge it used to be an Italian street food food truck. But it had all the equipment that we needed, like all we really need is a flat top and a set of burners and some coolers. And so it had all that stuff. And it was relatively cheap. But what we didn’t know and what we were very experienced that is that making sure that everything was in working condition and And most of the equipment except for the grill itself was not. We spent a bunch of money, either upgrading stuff, or repairing the truck. One thing in particular we didn’t know about was that the frame of the truck had a huge hole in it. Oh, wow, he was rotted away. So we had to go and have it repaired and have the frame reinforced, which was not a cost we expected. We had to redo the propane systems, the plumbing systems, the electrical systems, because whoever had put the truck together, was out of their mind. And once we got all that up and running, it was like as a January 2021, by the time we were actually able to operate. And the there was a whole different learning curve, then it was learning about all the regulations that you have to deal with as a food truck. Where can you park? How do you get customers, all that stuff? We eventually got ourselves signed up to do farmers markets, do private events, stuff like that. But there was a lot of even though I had food truck experience, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t anticipate from being on that sonar side. It’s a little different. Yeah. And some of it. Some of its small stuff, like, where do you get propane? And I call around to a bunch of different like fuel companies. And everyone’s like, No, we can’t do food trucks. They’re a liability. Oh, really? Yeah. I learned that nobody wants to work like professional trades. People don’t want to work on food drugs, because they’re a liability. And so like, literally I had to do, we had to do a lot of work on the food truck ourselves. Or if we had friends who knew certain trades, we could use them but professional trades people generally don’t want to work on food trucks. I mean, and then it was just learning like what vendors do we want to use. We got a really cool vendor for like our drinks and chips. Cool. Oh, Joe’s tea. They’re pretty awesome.

Jess 12:20
Oh, wow, and it’s peach too!

Tim B 12:23

Jess 12:23
Yes. It looks delicious

Tim B 12:26
We found we found a local bakery that would supply all of our bread. And like

Jess Hodge 12:30
Oh, nice.

Tim B 12:30
A lot of a lot of the grilled cheese is having the right bread

Jess 12:35
It is I agree wholeheartedly.

Tim B 12:38
So we picked out two kinds of breads, we have a sourdough bread, and a whole wheat bread that are there. You know, they’re wide slices. And they’re like three quarters of an inch thick. So these are big grilled cheeses. And and then we just went you know, we had a tasting, you figured out what you know, what do we want to serve? We got a bunch of our friends together and find out what they liked. And then we just went from that.

Jess 13:04
So why you worked in Italian food. It sounds like you worked in a lot of different areas. Why did you choose grilled cheese for your food truck:?

Tim B 13:14
So I wanted something that I could have a lot of creativity with. And something that provided for variety. Because what I like to do is have sort of a rotating menu on the truck where if you come to the truck here two different things you’ll have a two different menus almost, that you can choose from you can try something different every time you go. And I think that’s a lot of the appeal of grilled cheese is you can really make it what you want.

Jess 13:41
Yeah, it’s a blank canvas. Yeah, and cheese is different breads, different other add on the feeling.

Tim B 13:50
Well that’s and that’s one of the things I like is that people can do whatever they want on add ons. It’s sort of a build your own sandwich thing at some point. Like we have our standard menu items on there and we have specials, but then below that there’s just a menu of add ons you can put on to the grilled cheese, everything from like onions to jalapenos, avocado, bacon, chicken, like really whatever you want. And the customers really like it because then they can I find out that like people have very specific tastes about grilled cheese and they’re not all the same.

Jess 14:22
Yes. So what’s your favorite combination that you’ve put together?

Tim B 14:27
Well one I’m amazed that I’m not sick of grilled cheese at this point. But my favorite it’s either the raspberry Chipotle jam and cheddar cheese with bacon. Or I do like me like a standard like just shatter American and tomato and avocado I like that. Like if I’m in the mood for like like a just a bring you back to your childhood grilled cheese that’s what it is.

Jess 14:57
Yes, tomato is is one of the best This addition is in my opinion. So, those of you listening today, I want to know, what do you add to your grilled cheese? Because I’m very curious to know. So in the combinations,

Tim B 15:14
you know, I found out and asking people because I asked people on like other podcasts on I like what it was, what do you put in your grilled cheese and people are like, wait, you can put more than cheese in there? Yeah,

Jess 15:24
I actually asked on social media. When does a grilled cheese stop being a grilled cheese because at the time of recording, national Grilled Cheese Day, it was like a couple of days ago. And I was I was like, I want to, I want a sandwich. I just want today you know, normally a standard grilled cheeses are all right in my book, but I was craving something a little more. So I had a sandwich to have everything and cheese on it. And so I was like, Oh, is it a grilled cheese about cheating by posting this but it was so good. I didn’t care.

Tim B 15:58
Yeah, we we blur the line. Sometimes, like sometimes we’ll have burgers and we’ll do like Patty melts and stuff like that. And and we do a chicken fill email. That’s It’s a chicken and cheese grilled cheese. But like, you know, that’s really you know, there’s no, it’s, it’s fine.

Jess 16:19

Tim B 16:20
we encompass a lot of different kinds of sandwiches.

Jess 16:24
That’s awesome. So tell me a little bit. We’re gonna go back a little bit. Tell me about kind of your cooking background, you said you worked in an Italian eatery before you have any stories to share from your background?

Tim B 16:36
Sure, um, my first job at a restaurant was a Chinese delivery guy who was Chinese delivery. It was my first job. I worked there for God a long time. Eventually, they showed me how to cook some of the food which was awesome. I worked my way up to like doing the fryers and stuff like that. And another another restaurant that was in the same Plaza as the Chinese restaurant I worked at was Stella’s Italian restaurant. And that was where the the restaurant impossible show happen. I was originally supposed to be a barback. Like I just I was a delivery guy for them. They taught me how to make the pizza and stuff like that. But I wasn’t really like a cook. And when the restaurant impossible came. Unfortunately, none of the chefs knew while most of the chefs didn’t know fluent English, and the show had trouble teaching them the menu they were supposed to do. So literally 10 minutes before they’re supposed to do the final dinner service. They pulled me in my friend, they pulled me aside and said, Hey, we need you to do hot and cold apps. Here’s the pictures. Here’s how you’re supposed to do it. Go do so I got a crash course on how to make the hot and cold apps. And they just put me on the line. And Robert Irvine was in the service window yelling at me the entire time. Oh, wow. He was making salads and whatnot. And like I I guess I gave him one too many salads that were in plated correctly. And he was like if you don’t make a salad, right, I’m just gonna come back there and beat Yeah. Oh, wow. And I was like, Oh my god. Um,

Jess 18:10
was it one of those things where the camera yell cut. And then he was just like, Oh, good job. I shook your hand. It was okay.

Tim B 18:16
So he’s no okay. No, he didn’t care about the camera cutting it.

Jess 18:21
Oh,wow. So he’s that intense when the cameras go goes off too

Tim B 18:24
Oh, yeah. Yeah, he actually is that intense. He was that intense the entire time until after the dinner service. And then he was all handshakes and and pats on the back. Well, while the show was in production, and all that he was 100% business to the point where he yelled at the owners like off camera.

Jess 18:45
Oh my goodness.

Tim B 18:47
We were all sitting down after he had done like the tasting of the food and everything. And the one of the owners was like our foods not that bad. Is it? He was like I would never eat here. Oh, wow. He’s like, but don’t you worry about that. That’s my problem. Now I’m gonna fix it. But he yelled at the kitchen staff off camera because they were talking shit about him when they had hot mics.

Jess 19:09
Oh my goodness.

Tim B 19:10
He was like I don’t have to be here. I’m doing this for you. And a lot of the guys in the kitchen were fooled themselves like the head chef. Jerry he was very full of himself. And you can see you can see it in the show like he like joking around and talking about that how he could cook real good and all that and he’s a pretty good cook. But yeah, the shots were like talking shit about him. And he brought them all in the back and was like Don’t Don’t do that. I’m not I’m not here for that. But it was an interesting show. Like the whole production of it was very interesting to learn because it does actually, for the most part take place in the timeframe they say it does.

Jess 19:47
Okay, you always wonder if there’s a little studio magic behind that but that’s interesting to know.

Tim B 19:52
There’s only there’s only a little the whole rebuild of the restaurant took place in the timeframe. They said it did but I I think the owners and the the production crew sort of had pre designed what was going to happen, but it took place in the timeframe they say it is like there’s a little bit of like pre production, but that’s it.

Jess 20:11
I was gonna ask Does anybody recognize you from from the show? Have you ever had any situations like that before?

Tim B 20:17
No, I don’t think I was on it long enough for people to be like, Hey, you’re the guy from the show. I’m on the only people who know about it are the people I told about it? I think like, no one’s come up to me. If people come up to me now they recognize me from the food truck. Yeah.

Jess 20:32
Tell me about kind of your, your period in food trucks after Stella’s Italian restaurant, kind of what was your trajectory towards opening your food truck?

Tim B 20:41
So the food trucks I had worked on. The first job I got on a food truck was on a truck called the Fribourg food truck. And

Jess 20:51
Fryborg like cyborg? Yeah. Cool. Yeah. Cool name. I like it.

Tim B 20:55
It was the guys on it. Were pretty fun. Unfortunately, like making tons and tons of French fries is just grueling. Yeah, like the process to make french fries is just very labor intensive. I only worked there for about a month or so before I was like this making French fries is not for me. But it was a good learning experience. Because I got to learn about what it’s like to work on a food truck. I got to know what it’s like to drive a food truck. Because it is not fun at all. To drive a food truck. They are heavy, sometimes unbalanced. And you can’t turn very quick.

Jess 21:31
I was just gonna I was just about to ask how the turning is.

Tim B 21:35
The turning is atrocious. And if you get a good gust of wind, you feel it. The entire time driving back from from Maryland’s like it was a windy day. And the truck was just being pushed off. And I’d never I’d only driven a food truck for a few miles before that. So I got the full experience when it took me 11 hours to get from Maryland to Connecticut. Oh wow.

Jess 21:57
So don’t take your food truck, cross country folks.

Tim B 22:03
Um, but yeah, so I learned I learned a lot about like, how food trucks operate. And what the day to day is for at least a french fry food truck. And how many pounds of potato they go through. It’s insane after I left that a friend of mine knew a guy who just retrofitted a one of those like small commuter buses, like a maybe a 20 passenger bus into a lobster truck. And he was like, Oh, he was looking for help for the summer, the lobster truck is going to be parked at a brewery for the summer. So it’s not like it’s going anywhere. I wouldn’t have to drive it, which is fantastic. And he was like, you know, he needs help. And I told him you got experience. So I worked on the lobster truck for two summers. I mean, as long as they were busy, like the first time was like early summer to late fall. And then the second time was like late spring to early fall. And that was that was a unique experience. Because learning how to deal with large crowds at a brewery is like essential to owning a food truck. If you’re if you’re going to do that, like you’re going to do breweries, you’re going to do large crowds. And lobster truck is like the easiest thing because lobster rolls take like, three minutes to make. So you can pump out a lot of volume. And you only need like one or two people. The problem there is that lobster is so expensive. You really have to watch food costs. And that’s the problem they ran into is that either portioning wasn’t happening correctly, or they were being misinformed about how much lobster they were getting. Because they would buy frozen packs of lobster like lobster claw and like shredded lobster meat. And part of the packaging was it was water because it was frozen. So every time they opened a pack a lobster, there’d be about in a two pound bag would be about four ounces of water. And the owner was like why am I losing so much money in lobster? Like why are we selling that much? And I explained to him I was like there’s it’s not a lobster that’s in there’s water that’s in there too. And you’re not taking that into account your food costs. And once he did, he realized that he was selling almost exactly what he was supposed to sell. But yeah, that was interesting, a funny story from from that track. And one day it was like a regular like Wednesday afternoon or something like that. And I was just sitting there. It wasn’t too busy. All of a sudden, like 50 people show up and I don’t have enough lobster like preps to serve all these people at once. I immediately threw a ton of lobster into the hot water and I was like oh my God. What happened was is there was like a party bus or a tour bus. They came through and stopped at the brewery didn’t tell him Anyone Oh, wow. And they all wanted food because they had to leave in half an hour.

Jess 25:04
Oh my gosh, pressure.

Tim B 25:06
And yeah, so I like worked my ass off to feed as many of them as humanly possible for they had to leave. And it was just crazy. I was the only person and like the the other person who was the manager was like half an hour away and I called her and I was like, there’s like 100 people here and it’s just me. She’s like, I’ll be there as soon as I can. But it they had to leave. So most of them got their food, most of them but so

Jess 25:34
it was just was there any other variety other than like a lobster roll?

Tim B 25:38
We had we had lobster rolls, we had crab rolls, which was like Maryland crab. And it’s all Connecticut style stuff. So it’s like, the lobster rolls is just the lobster and butter. And the crab roll is basically the same thing. And we had clam chowder and lobster bisque. So the people that couldn’t get crab rolls at the end, they just got soup, because I ran out of lobster at that point. Like there wasn’t, there was no other lobster that was going to be ready. In the amount of time.

Jess 26:05
I was just wondering how complicated things are if you had like, fries or a side or something to put together to Oh, no,

Tim B 26:11
no, it wasn’t. There wasn’t a it was just the so the truck was laid out kind of like it was just a big flat top grill to grill the buttons and stuff like that heat up the laps through the next. And that was a big steam table where you hold the lobster, and it had a fridge and some things. They didn’t have the capability to do French fries or anything like that. But it was like still, like, if you multiply the three minutes it takes to make a lobster roll by 4050 people, there’s no way you can serve all that people in half an hour with one person. And let’s see after that are actually in the middle of that I worked for this other grilled cheese truck. And that was the worst experience. I

Jess 26:50
know. Wow. I’m surprised you opened a grilled cheese.

Tim B 26:57
Well, I basically told myself, that I’m not going to do anything that this guy did. Um, he was not a nice person. And I was how I was doing him a favor by working on the shop because he was short staffed, he just treated me like I knew the menu front the back and I didn’t. He had me to like prep for stuff, he had way too many sandwiches on the menu to accommodate being quick. And it was just not I took away from that experience that I would never be that guy. Only because I would never want to treat an employee that way. And I would never have a menu that’s so overcrowded with food that I couldn’t get anything out quickly. And that was you know, that was my that was my food truck experience before I bought one.

Jess 27:41
Very cool. So thank you so much for coming on and for sharing kind of your story and more about the melting truck. So if somebody’s in Connecticut area. Where can they find your truck.

Tim B 27:55
So right now our schedule is in a little bit of a flux. But you can find us if you’re in the Connecticut area and you’re in like Fairfield County. You can find us starting in the month of May, every Thursday afternoon at the Trumbull farmers market. You can find us hopefully doing street vending and Stratford starting in the month of May as well on hopefully, I think we’re gonna be Wednesdays and Fridays. And it’s all on our website. I know I updated all the time about where we’re going to be right now. If someone was going to be in Connecticut on Saturday, let’s say we’re going to be the athletic Brewing Company from 12 to four.

Jess 28:41
Okay, so what’s your website?

Tim B 28:44
My website is themeltingtruckcom

Jess 28:47
Very simple. And you’re the melting chuck on all social media platforms as well.

Tim B 28:54
I think so. I think our Instagram is at Melton truck. And our, and our email if anyone wants to email me about like, local Connecticut or private events. It’s at or it’s

Jess 29:14
All righty. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. I really learned a lot especially about restaurant impossible now I’m definitely gonna go rewatch the episode because I feel like I’ve seen it before but I just want to make sure it’s the one I remember. So

Tim B 29:31
I recently rewatched it just to see like how well it age, and it’s somewhere in season six

Jess 29:36
somewhere in season six, and Season Season Six restaurant impossible. And if I come to Connecticut, I want a sandwich with raspberry Chipotle jam.

Tim B 29:48
It’s delicious.

Jess 29:50
That sounds amazing. Well, I have been the flaky foodie and you can find me on all social media platforms @theflakyfoodie the flaky foodie, and thank you so much for listening. If you enjoy the show, treat it like gossip or the gospel and tell somebody about it. And if you eat something delicious this week, be sure to tell me on all my social media platforms. Have a great week everybody

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