ELYRIA, Ohio – For Greg Kobunski, the restaurant business has become a whole new ballgame.
Until recently, Kobunski served as director of food and beverage for the Lake Erie Crushers in Avon since 2016. But in September, after the season ended, he and his wife, Stephanie Bacskay, attended a concert and had an epiphany that is resulting in their food-truck venture, bRaised in the CLE.
“We sat there and we were in line,” he said. “We finally ordered, and then we waited again. I said, ‘Gosh, what’s going on.’ “
He said to himself, “There’s gotta be a better way to make this, for bigger events, to make food trucks faster.”
So, he said, he “tried to create a truck that by the time you’re done ordering you’re getting your food. We’re going to get you in the line, we’re going to get you in and out.”
It’s similar in size to the kitchen he used at the ballpark. The truck will accommodate a 36-inch grill and oven, plus a small countertop deep fryer that can handle 30 pounds along with a full-size refrigerator and freezer, and other kitchen accessories.
He also ensured the truck will have a “super quiet” generator in case he can’t plug in for electricity, so as not to overpower any of the sounds of a concert or other event.
“It’s born and raised, its braised, that’s what it’s all about,” Kobunski said.
“This whole food truck is about family and working hard and all about the community and bringing people together,” said Kobunski, who said the truck will be based at the couple’s Elyria home but travel east, west and south to Akron.
“Nothing is smoked on it,” he said. “I think that concept is being oversaturated right now. I wanted to do something that reminded me of home when I was a child. This Sunday comfort-food concept kind of hit.”
Many restaurants that focus on braising base the concept on short ribs, often one of the best dishes on a menu, he said.
“I wanted to take those kind of dishes and do them on a food truck and do these quickly and affordably,” said Kobunski, who previously worked at Johnny’s Downtown, John Palmer’s in Chardon and Cibreo in Playhouse Square.
The truck is due to be completed Tuesday, May 24. His health inspection is slated for Wednesday, June 8. And target launch date is Saturday, June 11.
“I wanted to focus on this brand of braising, cooking things in the oven, slow and low for hours,” he said.
Expect apple- and honey-glazed pork braised for eight hours in apple juice with a mix of herb de Provence and light barbecue rub that yields an “incredible” sweetness.
Kobunski is also making pork nachos, something that came about somewhat serendipitously.
He had made them at the stadium in 2017. One day, his assistant’s father was celebrating his birthday and asked Kobunski to make them.
“It just so happened that Major League Baseball on Fox was at the stadium that day,” Kobunski said. “They ended up getting the nachos and saying, ‘Wow, this is the best pork I’ve ever had.’ “
Eleven mains and five or six sides plus specials will be featured in the protein-heavy menu, he said.
Sandwiches, flatbreads, bowls and some salads will be offered. Sandwiches will include slightly braised chicken in Korean spice and another version with assorted seasonings. And he won’t skimp on bread, either. He is enlisting Orlando Baking Co. to make ciabatta.
“It’s a big sandwich,” he said.
While the concept started becoming a reality in September, Kobunski said he has had the name since 2008.
“I wanted to do this for a very long time,” he said.
The logo and truck wrap will include homages to his father, mother and mother-in-law.
“The pipe stove (in the logo) that creates the ‘b’ – one of the things was he (Kobunski’s father) was a very hard-working true Clevelander. He’s retired now. He had a true man cave in the garage. I would go out there, and he had this pipe stove to keep the garage warm when he’s doing his construction projects. He had a little radio, and we’d listen to Indians games. Eventually we put a TV in there and we would sit there and occasionally I’d be able to have a beer out there and we’d cook hot dogs on top of the stove.”
Bacskay, a 20-year Ohio Army National Guard veteran, splits time between her job at the Cleveland VA and scheduling food-truck gigs, Kobunski said.
Down the line he hopes to turn it into a quick-serve restaurant, but he wanted to start with the truck only. The couple has lined up appearances at a farmers market in Sheffield, a LaGrange IGA food-truck gathering, the Duct Tape Festival in Avon and the Tri-C JazzFest in Cleveland.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” he said.
I am on cleveland.com‘s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 am Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.
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