Liz and Jesse Huot pounced on the Louisville food truck scene in 2012 with their truck, the Grind, which specialized in handmade, hand-trimmed, delicious hamburgers. After retiring the food truck and settling down in a bricks-and-mortar building by the same name, we spoke to Liz about lessons they learned running that food truck and how her previous work experience helped her along the way. We also had to address the fact that this hamburger maven was a vegetarian for 15 years. Spoiler alert: After lots of prodding, they still wouldn’t give us the secret recipe for their hamburger blend.
The first question is the most important. How does a former vegetarian of 15 years end up owning a food truck and restaurant devoted to hamburgers?
When I met Jesse, he was willing to make a hand-trimmed blend of beef just for me so that I could enjoy them again without the nasty bits that kept me from eating meat. When he decided to leave his position at The Courier-Journal and start a food truck, he had this delicious burger blend already developed.
Which is harder, running a food truck or running a restaurant?
In my opinion, running a food truck is by far more difficult than running a restaurant. In this city, you’re running a food truck in a very small and very competitive market. Add to that being completely at the mercy of weather, hitting potholes and your food falling out of the fridge, or your grill falling on the floor, outrageous vendor fees for events … I could write a book.
Can you tell us what makes the Grind’s custom blend so special?
I can’t. But what I can tell you is that it’s comprised of several different cuts that we hand-trim and grind fresh daily.
Your background is in sales and marketing, formerly at Saks Fifth Avenue, Victoria’s Secret and Thorntons. How have those skills helped you in this job?
Selling lingerie at Victoria’s Secret and Saks Fifth Avenue taught me to know and understand the customer and the product in a sincere way, and allowed me into the personal lives of so many of my clients. Weight loss, personal tragedy, the birth of a baby, cancer or maybe just a special night out with their significant other—I saw and heard it all.
I often get referred to as “tough” or “abrasive” or “intense,” and that isn’t an unfair assessment. I grew up around contractors, so when the opportunity to work on construction sites for Thorntons and manage an installation crew fell into my lap, it might have seemed an unlikely job for a 24-year-old female, but it was a perfect fit. I learned that sometimes it’s all right to be mouthy, not to be intimidated because you might not “fit the mold,” to not give up until the job is done and that having an obsessive attention to detail is a great way to keep a plan on track.
Best part of your job?
Being in that service window of the truck for two years was difficult, and I’m so fortunate to have a great staff that can handle those day-to-day things in the front of house at the restaurant so that I can focus on the daily duties that most people would probably find terribly boring.
Least favorite part of your job?
On the truck, it was very easy to run the business in a very mechanical way, because so many factors were things I was directly touching every day. But the restaurant doesn’t allow that. I’m learning a lot every single day.
Who are your mentors and what advice do you treasure?
At Saks, I had Ina and Emily, two total badasses who understood my passion for lingerie and let me run free with ideas that most places would have stifled. The people at Thorntons were amazing, as well. I’ve never worked with so many people who were unapologetic about what they were asking for and getting amazing results in the process. Ryan Rogers from Feast has been more helpful than I’m sure he’s wanted to be. (Ha ha ha!) He has advised and helped and suggested and listened and guided more so than anyone else, and we would have had a much more difficult road without him.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
I wake up, do my social media stuff and make my way into the restaurant in the early afternoon, if I don’t have a lunch meeting. I pay bills, do the filing, sometimes help with extra prep in the kitchen and check in with the staff. Since Jesse is my husband and business partner, we spend a lot of evenings out to eat to work during dinner, because if we’re at home, we’re in total husband/wife mode and not a lot of work gets done.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ________.
My messenger bag
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
What’s your bucket list travel destination?
Spain again, Japan and Norway
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Flea Off Market, walking to Market Street, having a cocktail and going to dinner on a warm day.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants:
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
When I was younger, you couldn’t find me without a book, but now, I read more blogs and magazines.
Lightning Round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge: sour gummy candy
- Guilty pleasure song: Miley Cyrus drives me nuts, but I love “Wrecking Ball.”
- Tearjerker movie pick: St. Vincent. Bill Murray is so good in it.
- Standby nail polish color: Chanel’s Black Satin
If this article and these pictures have made you hungry, or you want to go chat with Liz in person, check out the Grind Burger Kitchen at 3311 Preston Hwy. And visit them online at grindburgerkitchen.com.
As always, much gratitude to our FACES photographer, Adele Reding, for her fantastic work. Visit her website at adeleredingphotography.com. And SB Tip: Adele highly recommends the crispy Brussels sprouts at the Grind.