Published: 07/19/2011 by Jane Snow
Johnny Schulze is living the dream. A few months ago he quit his job, bought a big truck and became a vagabond chef, traveling Northeast Ohio and dishing up fun food wherever he goes. Schulze, 44, is among a growing legion of culinary professionals who are operating food trucks—rolling restaurants that offer everything from tacos to Caesar salad.
Schulze’s specialty is the Cajun and creole dishes he learned to cook growing up in Baton Rouge, La., and later at culinary school in New Orleans. In a former package delivery truck, he and a helper or two churn out restaurant-quality jambalaya, po’ boys, shrimp creole and other Big Easy foods at farmers’ markets, festivals and street fairs in Cleveland and Akron. One of his regular stops is Wednesday evenings just off the square in Wadsworth, where he lives with his wife and two children. That’s where I found him on a recent balmy summer evening.
Shulze landed in Wadsworth after a stint in the military and chef jobs in Connecticut and Nantucket, he tells me. He moved here because his wife, Pamela, was hired as a professor of child development at the University of Akron.
“I just follow her,” he says. “She’s brilliant.”
Schulze was executive chef at Wadsworth’s Galaxy Restaurant for ten years before he quit to follow his own dream.
“I wanted to do this 20 years ago, I just didn’t have the money,” he says as he readies the Zydeco Bistro for business. He opens the rear doors, revealing a $50,000 stainless steel kitchen. The stove and generator are powered by propane.
Life on the road is sweet, Schulze says, noting that the Zydeco Bistro has developed an impressive fan base in the three months he has been in business.
“I’m going to build another one,” he predicts. “It’s only a matter of time.”
Chef Johnny Schulze can be reached at 330-352-2762. The food truck’s schedule is at www.ZydecoBistro.com.