“I have always had an obsession with good food, exploring new flavors and trying new places,” said Jesse Thompson, owner of Food, Fire & Ferment food truck. “I cooked at home, but never thought of making it a career.”
Six or seven years ago, Thompson said, his wife bought him a homebrewing kit, and he started brewing his own beer.
“I totally nerded out on it. I started kegging it, buying more kegerators and having parties,” he said. “I had nine beers on tap at home. The byproducts were being wasted, that was how cooking with beer started. I beer brined a turkey and smoked it for Christmas and was hooked.”
Thompson took an experimental approach to brewing. “I was making fruit beers with fresh blackberries, a chipotle quarter beer that people still talk about,” he said. “I added food ingredients to beer and then went full circle baking with beer, using the grains for pretzels and bread pudding.”
After buying a smoker on clearance, Thompson also started building his social media presence. “I was posting new and creative posts and making friends with people doing similar crazy stuff,” said Thompson, who lives in Halls. “I loved doing this, having parties and thought maybe I should take it on the road.”
Thompson has worked the night shift at Home Depot for years and managed to carve out some time to start catering out of a local coffee shop for birthday parties, business lunches and other small events. “I got to make extra money and use my creative side,” he said.
When the coffee shop he was operating out of closed, Thompson decided to progress to a food truck. “I started with a motor home, tore it down to the studs, but ended up selling it,” he said. “Then, things rolled quickly; I cashed in some stock and brought home my trailer in August 2021.”
A friend who owns Wrenhouse Coffee and Bakery let Thompson “work out the kinks” serving fresh baked biscuits with smoked brisket and beer bacon jam or coffee roasted sausage.
“It was not your traditional breakfast stuff. That is a lot of my style — doing this approachable food that people understand, but doing it differently.”
Food, Fire & Ferment Food truck averages around three pop-up locations a week and posts a weekly schedule @foodfireandferment on Facebook and Instagram. Customers can scan a QR code to pre-order and pay online before stepping up to the window to collect their order.
The current menu includes a boozy brisket sandwich topped with a smooth IPA beer cheese sauce and pale ale pickled red onions.
“My Bourbon barbecue sauce sells well, and I do a brisket grilled cheese with a four-cheese blend and cream cheese with peach preserves that is very popular as well,” he said. “I saw an awesome grilled cheese on Instagram and looked through what I had on hand and came up with it. The peach gives it a little sweetness that doesn’t mess with the smoked brisket.”
The pulled pork sandwich is another staple — with pickles made with the malty and citrus sweetness of a beer, buttermilk slaw and bacon jam — as is the Mac Attack, which is served with a choice of protein.
For dessert, Food Fire & Ferment tops cinnamon roll bread pudding with bourbon whipped cream and cinnadust and a “Make your own S’more” with a graham cracker, chocolate and double beer marshmallow (it is a rotating beer). As an added treat, Thompson toasts the marshmallows in front of his customers.
Food, Fire & Ferment also teams up with local breweries to create beer pairing menus.
“We sold tickets in the weeks leading up to a four-course dinner at Printshop (Beer Co.),” said Thompson. “We started with a grilled romaine salad with smoked candy pecans and Kolsch beer dressing, an IPA beer cheese soup with smoked pork belly popsicle, a prime rib main course with roasted garlic IPA mashed potato and hoppy horseradish sauce and a bacon wrapped carrot, finishing with a chocolate stout brownie.”
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Meet the home brewer behind the Food, Fire & Ferment food truck