Lenny Gordon grew up watching his mother, Cameal, cook authentic dishes from her native Jamaica and learned his first food skills from her. His mom saw potential in Lenny’s knack for cooking and encouraged him to go to cooking school. Right after high school graduation, he attended Johnson and Wales in Charlotte in 2010 and graduated in 2012.

He started his food business in his hometown of Greensboro. “We set up as a temporary food establishment at festivals and events. I also worked two years as a line cook at P.F. Chang’s in Northlake, Charlotte, and four years kitchen manager at CleanEatz in Greenville. We then saved up enough money to purchase a food truck in December 2019. It has been a long time coming but I have loved every step of the way.”

His dream was to one day to pay homage to his roots, and on Jan. 1, 2020, a few weeks before the pandemic shut down the country, The Jerk Food Truck opened for business. Lenny had skills, recipes and passion, and even when the first few months challenged him, he kept trucking along — literally — and started to grow his business and customer base. Just over a year later, he’s doing great.

I met up with him recently at The Ronald McDonald House where he had just served over 40 medical staff and patrons meals earlier that day. Giving back is just as important to Lenny as making good food to customers.

The Jerk Food truck menu offers classics and authentic dishes that offer loads of flavor and transport your taste buds to the island. Jerk chicken is at the center of the menu and is scratch-made with a flavorful signature marinade and dark meat thighs. Jerk chicken is a staple in Jamaican cuisine, and Lenny wanted his food truck to center on one of his favorites.

You can have a jerk chicken sandwich, tacos, wings, or simply placed over top beans and rice which is another Jamaica staple. They also offer sweet chili shrimp tacos, and authentic sodas including pineapple, Kola champagne or cream soda. A lot of street food vendors in Jamaica carry an array of ice-cold sodas to cool you off during those hot summers and to add that cold sweetness to pair with the heat from jerk chicken.

“We serve authentic Jerk Chicken as well as other Jamaican cuisines that you know and love. These Jerk items have been prepared, smoked (never baked), and served like back in the yard of Portland, Jamaica. We have also added in some Caribbean bar food as well and put a little twist on things to make it our own.”

So I started my Hot Dish food tour with an ice-cold Jamaican soda. I tried the smooth and sweet cream soda flavor. It was refreshing and a perfect start to my meal. Next, I went right for the main attraction, jerk chicken served over rice and beans and served with a side of sweet yellow plantains and cooked cabbage.

The jerk chicken starts with boneless, skinless chicken thighs that have been marinated overnight then grilled and smoked for almost an hour. They chop it up into big chunks and add more of their signature marinade on top. The marinade has a little Scotch bonnet pepper adding in a nice top heat and a touch of sweetness. The jerk seasoning wakes up your taste buds with a slow build of heat from the peppers, and the sweetness pops in your mouth. The rice is the clean balance, and the rich cooked cabbage and sweet, yellow plantains bring this authentic dish to a beautiful close.

Next, I tried the popular jerk chicken tacos. The same addictive jerk chicken is ladled inside a soft tortilla then topped with corn salsa made with black beans and served with fries and mango slaw. The corn salsa was the star of this dish with its freshness, and when you eat the savory meat you get a tang of freshness from the salsa and smooth white dressing. The mango slaw does not have vinegar or mayo; this salad is clean and the fresh chopped mango acts as a natural sweetener. It was fresh and vibrant and addictive, a perfect healthy side to pair with any dish. You can also order sweet chili street tacos. My food tasting was a nice spring trip to Jamaica without leaving Greenville.

Most days you can find The Jerk Truck at the Food Rodeo at the corner of Evans Street and Fire Tower Road, or you can find out where the Jerk Truck will be out by going to streetfoodfinder.com/thejerktruck, check them out on Facebook every Monday to see the schedule for that week, or you can order online with the Street Food Finder App. For more information, call Lenny and his team at 336-355-1232 or email him at thejerktruck@gmail.com.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.