‘Keep it simple stupid’ - That was Jeff Cantrell’s squadron motto when he worked in the Dawson County Fire Department.
“We don’t want to get out there and try to make anything harder on us,” Cantrell said.
Now, Cantrell has instilled that motto in their barbecue food truck business, ‘Mutt and Jeff’s’ which he runs with his wife at local North Georgia hotspots each week.
When Cantrell and his wife, Angie, started the food truck in September, they said they had no end goal of building a stand-alone restaurant, they just wanted to have fun and cook good food for the local community.
“My family said they would give us a time frame until we have a storefront, but that’s just not on our list,” Cantrell said. “It's like a little mini-vacation. One weekend we might be in Braselton, but the next we’re at Loretta Lynn’s ranch for a week doing truck wagon races. Then, we could be in Myrtle Beach for bike week. It’s always a different town and we meet so many new people.”
The parents of two have worked festivals long before Mutt and Jeffs started. Along with an old-fashioned towing trailer, Cantrell built his wife a tiny house that she would travel with as a women’s boutique.
After working at fire and police stations for 27 years, Cantrell felt a calling from the Lord to start the barbecue food truck.
“Jeff has always loved to cook,” Angie Cantrell said. “He’s the chef of the house, hands down.”
They sold their two trailers and built a new one for their new dream. They built in a side area where they keep a bed to save money on hotels while they travel to other festivals.
“And we actually get along, can you believe that,” Angie Cantrell said.
Though they had been traveling to festivals for a while now, the couple said they had things to learn about being full-time in a food truck.
“We had a menu as long as a leg when we first started,” Cantell said.
Cantrell said things like loaded baked potatoes, loaded jalapenos and a lot of desserts were on the menu when they first started.
“I had a really good friend of mine whose family has owned a bbq restaurant for years. He said ‘Jeff, when you narrow that menu down to a bbq sandwich and a couple of other things, you’ll be on your way to a successful business,’” Cantrell said.
The couple trimmed the menu down to the most popular items, one of which is Cantrell’s great-great grandfather’s Brunswick Stew recipe.
“After friends said that I had to have stew, I wasn’t going to settle,” Cantrell said. “It took a while but my mom finally found it.”
After several tries to decipher what ‘a handful of salt and just about that much pepper’ truly was from his grandfather’s recipe, Cantrell said he found the taste that brings some customers to purchase gallons of Brunswick Stew every week.
Just as Mutt and Jeff’s was about to hit six months in business, the COVID-19 outbreak started. When festival after festival canceled, the Cantrell’s opened the truck in their front yard, hoping that people would still come and buy their barbecue.
Mutt and Jeff’s hosted a month-long challenge in May to see what was the menu’s most popular item: the loaded barbecue nachos or the Pig Melt; a pulled pork sandwich with Texas toast and American cheese. After the Pig Melt came out on top, the Cantrell’s offered the sandwich for 50% off for a day.
With the state lifting restrictions on what people can and cannot do during the COVID-19 outbreak, Mutt and Jeff’s alternates between two North Georgia breweries, NoFo and Tantrums.
There are festivals in the Fall that the Cantrell’s booked before the outbreak which are still scheduled. As of right now, Mutt and Jeff’s will still be on the Dawsonville square every Wednesday and Thursday
“The good Lord has blessed us to be able to do something we love every day,” Cantrell said. “Until I wake up and one of us looks at the other and says ‘this is what we need to do now,’ we’re sticking with this. We love it.”