Jen Gustin wanted to model her food truck, Boss Mama’s Kitchen, after the restaurant where she had her first job flipping burgers in high school.
Bob’s Burger Barn on South Tacoma Way was in the same category of restaurants that appeal to Gustin. The sort of restaurant “that you used to go to after school on Friday night when you were in high school to get a good burger, good fries, good comfort food. There aren’t many of those places left and I want to be one of those places,” said Gustin, who left a 17-year career in sales management at Comcast last year to open her first restaurant.
Boss Mama’s Kitchen, a food truck, debuted July 15 and so far has found a semi-permanent home outside Sumner’s Half Lion Brewery.
Gustin earned her nickname “Boss Mama” from a Comcast co-worker. She was known for bringing food for Monday morning sales meeting, which caused one sales director to pronounce, “You’re like a boss and a mama. You’re Boss Mama.”
Her dream job percolated while she held a day job. She spent a year testing 50 recipes on family members while rehabbing a 6-year-old truck with an all-new kitchen.
Gustin, who graduated from Mount Tahoma High School in 1995, built her burger spread based on Bob’s, although she doctored the mustard-tinged special sauce with her own blend of spices. She calls the puckery burger spread “Reggie sauce,” which is also the name of her truck. A fan of old ’80s-era cop movies, she named her truck after the Eddie Murphy character Reggie Hammond from “48 Hours.” That’s also the name of her truck’s signature burger.
She adds new menu items every time she operates her truck, but there are two standards: burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.
The burgers arrived as towering, three-napkin affairs requiring two-hand eating.
The peanut butter bacon burger ($7.75) sounded like a food dare, but is proving her most popular. It’s built with two patties — fresh patties, not frozen — which Gustin purchases from Sumner’s Smithco meats. Melted American cheese clung to the two patties separated by thick-cut crispy bacon. Creamy peanut butter was swiped onto both buns, with chopped onions and dill pickle slices adding cool crunch to the oversized, gooey monstrosity.
Her signature Reggie Hammond burger ($6.75) is a touch more conventional. That one is built with a quarter-pound of beef, with American cheese, and the standard finishers of chopped lettuce and onions, tomato, pickles and her special Reggie sauce.
Also find two or three grilled cheese sandwiches. Pepperoni grilled cheese ($7) with marinara is a new addition. Standards include a crunchy grilled cheese with jalapenos and crushed Fritos ($5.75) and the classic with three kinds of cheese ($5).
She also serves garlic ($5) or regular ($3) fries, with the intention of adding Buffalo blue cheese fries. She rotates through plenty of specials. This week’s was a fried hot dog topped with chili.
The truck is a family project with help from mom and dad, Bill and Nancy Pearson, and best friend Brandee Bell and her daughter Carlyn Bell. Gustin’s husband, a network operation supervisor at Comcast, has been a longtime advocate that Gustin ditch her job for her dream.
“Every day he’d ask me if I’d quit my job until one day I finally said I had,” said Gustin. She and her husband live in Puyallup.
Gustin intends to work a few days a week, or more often, at Half Lion Brewery, but has other events planned. Check her Facebook page for the truck’s schedule.
Boss Mama’s Kitchen
Contact: 253-222-8631 or bit.ly/2b3XVk4.
Where: Find the truck one to three times a week in the late afternoon through evening at Half Lion Brewery, 1723 West Valley Highway E., Sumner. (Children allowed in the taproom, which has plenty of seating for dining).