New Jersey husband and wife team Dean and Emily Hodecker have been in each other’s lives since elementary school. Growing up together, they found a love for each other that is rivaled by only one other passion: Food. That passion led them to operate what is now one of the best food trucks in New Jersey: The Good Food = Good Mood food truck.
The Hodeckers have been working in kitchens since their teenage years. Soon after, the couple enrolled in culinary school in hopes of one day starting their own food business.
With this in mind, they made their way to the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont; taking every class together and working side by side each day. After graduation, they found work in fine-dining restaurants. Each new job gave them the necessary skills to build their own food service enterprise.
Then, In April 2016, the duo finally brought their idea to life. Good Food = Good Mood offers innovative twists on typical American dishes, such as burgers and fries. The truck is available for event catering, but they appear at many of NJ’s best food truck events as well.
To learn more about Good Food = Good Mood, Best of NJ spoke to Dean and Emily Hodecker. Check out the full interview below!
The Best New Jersey Food Trucks: Good Food = Good Mood Interview
Best of NJ: What sparked an interest in the culinary profession?
Dean: I think part of it was just growing up in kitchens. We worked in kitchen jobs from delis to supermarkets… I worked in fine-dining restaurants. We thought that’s where our path was going to lead us—in fine dining. I worked at a high-end seafood restaurant, and Emily worked in New Brunswick at The Frog and The Peach.
We worked our way up through the ranks and got opportunities to manage our own large operations; where we gained the confidence and experience needed to open our own business.
BONJ: What made you start a food truck business rather than a restaurant?
Dean: Food trucks allow you an easy start up. It’s a little bit of a lower cost start to get things going. It also allows you to test your product out there, before you make that maybe major investment into a restaurant. It gives you an opportunity to test your market out a little bit, test your product out; then from there you can decide what your starting menu is going to be, and so on and so forth.
That’s our ultimate goal in the end game: To open up a brick and mortar.
Out of the Kitchen and into the Food Truck
BONJ: How does your culinary experience translate to the food truck business?
Dean: Well, when we started out, we began as line cooks in restaurants. So, you know, it’s pretty much what we’re doing on a daily basis on the food truck; we’re cooking to order as quickly as we can with the best ingredients possible.
When we were hired to work in the food service industry, it was all the office obligations. We did the hiring, the firing, the payroll, the paperwork financial statements. So we got our experience in the kitchen straight out of culinary school, and then grew into management type positions.
BONJ: One of the most impressive elements of the food truck, aside from the food, is the truck itself. Tell us a little about that.
Dean: The first thing we planned when we decided to open the business was our menu. This way, we were able to base the specifications of the truck on our menu. So whoever is working the grill, all your ingredients are right below you; whoever is working the finishing station doing all the garnishes, the fryer and everything is right around you. Nobody has to move from their station. The whole idea was to make it as efficient as possible.
I pretty much took old school graph paper, drew where I wanted this equipment, and brought it to our builder. It was a whole process. A lot of wheels were turning for about a year before we decided that we were happy with it.
A Menu that will Make you Smile
BONJ: So what kind of food can guests get from Good Food = Good Mood?
Dean: We do twists on burgers and fries. So we take it to the next level [laughs]. For example, our most popular item is the Mac Burger. It’s a bacon cheeseburger topped with homemade fried mac and cheese. Also, it’s about eight to nine inches high. It’s very dramatic looking [laughs]. People get really excited when they see it.
BONJ: Speaking of, what are some of your other most popular items?
Dean: Behind the Mac Burger is the Avocado BLT Cheeseburger. Our most popular loaded fries are the Truffle Fries, which are crispy fries topped with a black truffle aioli sauce, parmesan cheese, and some sliced black truffles over the top of it. Then there’s our BBQ Pulled Pork Fries; with slow roasted pulled pork, topped with cilantro coleslaw, chipotle aioli, and fresh scallions. That’s also very dramatic looking. It gets people excited.
Emily: Our most popular side are the Avocado Fries. They’re fresh avocado sliced, breaded, seasoned, and fried. It’s topped with two sauces: The jalapeno cilantro aioli and the chipotle aioli, and then it’s topped off with some scallions.
BONJ: What’s the most important lesson you know now, after three years with Good Food = Good Mood?
Dean: I think one of the most important things we’ve learned is networking with these other trucks. It’s important developing relationships with other trucks, because at the end of the day, one hand washes the other. You help each other out and basically turn into families at events. We’re all going through the same struggles; and we’re all going through the same processes with the permits and all the procedures that we have to follow.
BONJ: What types of catering packages does Good Food = Good Mood offer?
Dean: Everything from the basic burgers and fries all the way up to our full-blown menu with plenty of choices. It all depends on how big the party is, what their price point is, and what exactly their needs are. And we also allow add-on items, if a package is missing a food item you’d like.
We’ve done parties from 25 people all the way up to seven hundred people. So we know what we’re doing when it comes to catering [laughs].
BONJ: How can people track your truck for upcoming events?
Dean: On Sundays or Mondays every single week, we post our schedule on social media; on Facebook, Instagram, and on our website. We travel the entire state and do stuff down in Philly; we’ll go all the way down to Wildwood, and we’ll even go up to upstate New York at times. But you’ll see us at many Just Jersey Fest events, and every Friday evening we’re at Pier 13 in Hoboken.
Want to find more of The Best New Jersey Food Trucks? Then check out The Best New Jersey Food Trucks: The Complete Series.
Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ