Whenever Belisario “Yayo” Jiménez visited his grandmother’s house as a boy, his first stop was the kitchen — where Grandma Chechis cooked mojarra frita and pollo al pibil for whoever appeared, at any hour. “I remember the smile on her face when she’s cooking,” he recalls. “And the smell, it just calls you!”
On a chilly weekday afternoon, the aromas emanating from Jiménez’s gourmet taco truck call forth a steady stream of lunchers, who power down fully loaded shrimp tacos in a Vanderbilt-area parking lot. Yayo’s OMG! — the name is both a texty/Twittery interjection and stands for “Original Mexican Gourmet” — was featured on the Cooking Channel show Eat St. and in its companion street food cookbook.
Yayo’s 23-year-old daughter Giovy is standing in for his wife Ingrid — whose famously friendly visage is usually the one in the window. “My wife says, ‘Working for this guy is like a hell’s kitchen,’ “ Yayo jokes, and Giovy notably does not roll her eyes.
More than just a willing right-hand man, Giovy actually birthed this whole scheme. After moving to Nashville to pursue a musical career, she noticed the small-but-growing food truck scene and called her dad, who was working in South Florida with his celebrity-chef brother Ze Carlos Jiménez to launch “The Mexzican” food truck.
“You need to move here,” Giovy told him.
After 30 years working nearly every possible job in the food and hospitality industry, from top to bottom, from Mexico to Miami, Yayo was ready to bring his business and culinary chops to a newer, riper market — and to join his family in a smaller, quieter city.
So in 2011, the family converted an old Snap-On Tools truck into a cheery green-and-white mobile kitchen and hit the road, dividing and conquering: The three work the lunch rush and occasional catering gigs together; Dad creates artful dishes that shake up his grandmother’s cocina with little surprises, like almonds and raisins; daughter brings youthful tech savvy to the table, managing social media; and Mom works her diplomatic magic through the order window, out-Southerning the Southerners themselves.
“We love the contact,” Yayo says. “Yeah, the purpose of life is connecting,” Giovy adds, words bubbling from both at once.
Food as a social experience and an expression of love — it’s a lesson Yayo learned early at Grandma Chechis’ table.
“My grandmother, she says, ‘El amor entra por el estómago,’ ” he says. Turning to Giovy, he asks, “Rephrase it for me, maybe?”
“Love comes in through your stomach,” she explains.
“I feed you, and you start loving me,” he grins. “But I am a married man.”
The Model Citizen: Karen Elson
The Advocate: Paul Kuhn
The Cook: Tallu Schuyler Quinn
The Busker: Mike Slusser
The Cleaner: Sharon Reynolds
The Mobilizer: Remziya Suleyman
The Believer: Theron Denson
The Maker: Zoe Schlacter
The Animators: Magnetic Dreams
The Buyer: Kelly Anne Ross
The Arthouse Ambassador: Sarah Finklea
The Picker: Rory Hoffman
The Singer: Ruby Amanfu
The Educator: Ellen Gilbert
The Air Drummer: Steve Gorman
The Artist: Martin Cadieux
The Futurist: Ken Gay
The Commissioner: Many-Bears Grinder
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