COTTAGE GROVE – Last week, Cottage Grove welcomed its latest addition to its list of culinary experiences – the Food Smiths, a food truck family enterprise with a primary focus on serving breakfast.
Located on the corner of 10th and Main streets, the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce on July 11 celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting and food samples consisting of banana foster waffl e, biscuits and gravy, homemade fries, and strawberry shortcake.
“It was so great to see so many people show their support” at the ribbon cutting, said Georgia Haskell, the CEO of the Cottage Grove Chamber. “What a great addition to Cottage Grove.”
Much of the menu is organic and also caters to folks with different dietary needs, such as gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan, according to owner Isaac Smith, who also serves as the chef.
“We try to use as many local ingredients as possible and are conscious of people with different dietary needs. … We want to have options for everybody,” Smith said.
Smith has been cooking professionally for 24 years. After working many years at other people’s restaurants – including at Jack Sprats for the last five years – he said he is ready to run his own kitchen, have full control of the menu, and cook what he really likes to cook.
“I started cooking when I was 6 years old. My uncle brought me to the stove and showed me how to make hamburgers while I was standing on a chair. Ever since then, I have fallen in love with cooking,” Smith said.
His first job in a restaurant was when he was 18 years old, washing dishes at Denny’s in Springfield.
Then Isaac went to work at Mirabel at 5th Street Public Market in Eugene and was trained under what he describes as a “very rigid and strict chef.”
“I did not enjoy working for him; it was the first time I encountered a chef, but in hindsight he was doing a wonderful job in training me in how to do things properly,” he said. “It took me a while to realize that, but I really learned a lot from him and it fanned my fl ame to search out a further career in culinary arts.”
Two years ago, Isaac was in recovery from surgery and not working. That free time gave Issac and his wife, Elasah, the opportunity to work together and do a food pop-up at Bohemia Park.
They work well together, said Elasah, who is the co-owner. She works the front of the house, her husband works the kitchen, and their three sons are old enough to help out, too, making it a true family business.
Isaac has been teaching his sons, Phoenix, 15, Gryphn, 13, and Finn, 9, basic culinary principles since they could walk – slicing meats, portioning, using a scale to weigh out ingredients for more accuracy, so the boys already had a jumpstart in knowing what to do when the family started the food truck.
Naming the business was something the whole family was part of.
“We did a food pop-up in Bohemia Park back in 2021 and we came up with the idea of being a combination of a blacksmith, food creator, and the Smith family. That was the concept behind the Food Smiths – we are producing food like a blacksmith would,” Isaac said.
Elasah said the food is unique because the recipes come from her husband’s heart and it’s about flavor, combination, and the ability to pull it together in a fresh new way unlike anywhere else.
“Part of the challenge and the excitement is being able to create something that everybody is going to love but at the same time tending to people with certain food allergies,” Isaac said. “My goal is to make it a wonderful experience to anybody who tastes it, regardless of your dietary restrictions.”
Best-sellers so far, according to the Smiths, are the breakfast burritos and the breakfast sandwich premier. The Philly cheese steak is also a favorite on Wednesday’s menu.
The portions are generous, something the Smiths say is important – they want to give people more than they expect. They also plan on having a series of different specials they will run on a regular basis.
“As soon as I lock in the regular menu, I plan on adding daily and weekly specials,” he said. “Trying something new instead of having the same thing over and over is something I think our regulars will appreciate.”
Isaac said the goal is to eventually become a “full-sized restaurant.” For now, the plan is to run through the fall and winter as a food truck.
This is a good start, Isaac said.
The Smiths are leasing the food truck from Bohemia Food Hub and are part of the incubation program there for entrepreneurs who are just starting out and targets small businesses. Part of the program is to offer start-ups subsidized rent.
“We are the first business in this food truck space being developed as an entrepreneurial arena through the Bohemia Food Hub run by Kim Johnson. Because I had completed a 10-week business class with RAIN last year, we qualified to be part of the Bohemia Food Hub Entrepreneurial Program,” Elasah said.
RAIN is a regional accelerator and innovation network that supports innovative startups in the Southern Willamette Valley.
Starting the business has been hard work and the Smith family also experienced losing their rental home to fire this spring, which was deemed a total loss. That experience further fueled their determination to open up their own food truck.
“We had just started this project when our house burned down,” Isaac said. “It was then we decided to fully commit to completing the Food Smiths, even amidst the chaos of being displaced and not knowing how we were going to move forward. This was on March1. We basically lost everything, except what we were wearing that day and had with us in our vehicle.”
They are staying with family, and are trying to find a property or a house to call their next home. Through it all, Elasah said the Smiths have received great community support.
“We are blessed; being part of this community is what helped us get through this,” Elasah said. “It is beautiful to start a business here and give back to our community because we feel so supported and loved by the people here.”
Since opening up shop on June 21, the food truck is open Thursday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. During the summer, the Food Smiths are also open Wednesdays from 4-9 p.m. during Concerts in the Park.
“Good conversation, good time, good food is, to me, what life is about,” Elasah said. “What I really want is to invite people in to have a good time and to make sure they are enjoying themselves.”