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Tampa’s Newest (and Best) Food Truck Concept: Veteran-Owned The Liberty Smokehouse (Q&A)

The Liberty Smokehouse is the latest concept from Chef Bryan Jacobs, founder of the nonprofit Vets 2 Success. A veteran-owned Artisanal Wood Fire mobile restaurant concept with the mission of “bringing people together at the table to make a difference in the community they live in and love”. We had the opportunity to taste the absolute must-try, mouth-melting menu items at the recent soft launch at Two Shepherds Taproom. We couldn’t get enough so we asked founder Bryan Jacobs to tell us more about Tampa’s newest and hottest “Chef inspired-Purpose Driven” food truck concept.

Learn a little about what Bryan has to say about his journey thus far:

Tell us about yourself and your background:

Around the age of 8 food found me and it wasn’t by accident my grandfather happened to be a Chef, a German chef who served in the Navy during WWII. After returning from my tours of duty in Iraq with the Marine Corps as a Navy Corpsman, I fell into a hardship that a lot of veterans returning home from combat face. PTSD and the emotional hardship of fitting in back home, Fortunately, I found my calling and after a stint with homelessness and numerous other rigors of life, I was able to gather the courage to go to culinary school in 2008, where with my military training I succeeded quite well. During culinary school, I worked for Chef Hans Schadler, upon graduation in May of 2009 I was sent to Florida to apprentice under Master Chef Peter Timmins and was one of only 67 Master Chefs in the World. Thereafter, I was the Private Chef for the Anheuser Busch family where I cooked for many esteemed guests, including Former President of The United States George W. Bush on multiple occasions. I stayed for three years until my graduation in July 2015 from USF with my Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management. In 2014, my life purpose was found, losing my younger brother to Veteran suicide I knew now I had to make a change. Armed with nothing more than the experience that I had lived personally, I made my choice. I started a crash course in culinary for veterans that were homeless, displaced, and looking for a second chance in life. It was called Vet2Chef. All I knew then was, I wanted to make a difference. During the course of the next few months, life became uncertain; news of the loss of my mentor Master Chef Peter Timmins to suicide struck me hard, but it was the next event that kept me going. I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to France and Europe to study, but that came with a cost and a promise I cannot ever let down. Just before departing, 4 days exactly, I lost my mother but not without saying goodbye and making her a promise. That promise was to finish what I started… my Nonprofit, my business, and my global impact. So, in one year I lost a brother, a mentor, and a mother, but gained a purpose for all I want to be and become.

This is where the next chapter has begun,

I attended the Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, and multiple universities around the world; achieving a Double Masters in Culinary, Innovation, Leadership and Management. This opportunity changed my life and changed the direction that I wanted my life to grow. From there forward I knew that food saved me, and with it, I can change and save many more brothers and sisters who have suffered like my younger brother and me. Vets2Success was born, and now that more than 46 lives have been impacted and armed with multiple programs to help change the way veterans find a passion and purpose back in life.

Tell us more about Vets2Success:

Vets2success is a behavioral health and habit reintegration program that trains homeless, displaced, and second-chance veterans in food and brew programs and helps them find passion, purpose, and service again, in order to see their lives for what they can become and not for where they are or what they once were.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I'm different and I want to truly impact the world, I don't fit the standard life and I know with hard work anything can be accomplished. I have never fit in, even as far back as I can remember I was always an outcast, maybe that is what molded me to work harder because I had so few friends, and I just explored ways to make money. I think there is something in you that makes you strive for more, and at the end of the day, I believe in people and taking care of them as well, the only way I will ever truly do that is through owning my own company.

What is the mission of Liberty Smokehouse?

The Liberty Smokehouse's mission is to deliver the highest quality of artisanal wood-fired cuisine to the community all while changing lives on both sides of the plate.

What is unique about your company?

Our model is to retrofit retired military equipment with reuse, refocus, and recycle mentality creating opportunity out of less-than-opportunistic situations. Our future endeavors will create the world's first mobile sustainable restaurant startup that allows us to be anywhere, anytime with a true call to action.

Tell us about the food/ menu?

We specialize in food that touches the artisanal ability to touch fire, smoke, and coal in an effort to increase the experience by layering ingredients that are the most classical of approaches using wood and coal in every dish.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I have truly fallen in love with fire, it excites me, it's a force that you can never control and it's a dance that has to be done so perfectly and delicately, and you cannot rush it or try to manipulate it. The art of smoke has come from the history of where food has come from and how important it is for the origins of its birth to be respected and cared for. I grew up watching my family cook this way, and traveling the world and living in places where only fire, smoke, and coal are used has just changed my total passion for cooking and preservation.

What's next for Liberty Smokehouse / Chef Bryan Jacobs?

Everything and then some, the dream is bigger than I have ever imagined and I'm so blessed to have been able to find my true calling and purpose, I thank God, for it all. The blessings, the lessons.....In reality, we hope to continue to change lives not just here but in communities all over the world.

Editors Note: Refining menu options, adding additional trucks and solidifying brick-and-mortar locations, and of course, hiring more veterans are all just a part of the plan.

Where / How can people get your food?

Find The Liberty Smokehouse @thelibertysmokehouse on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our schedule to come to see us or message us to book an event!

Wanting to give back to the community and help support Vets in need, Chef Bryan made his vision a reality. Stop by and try his delicious masterpieces at Two Shepherds Taproom Thursday-Friday 5pm to 9pm as well as on Saturday from 12pm to 9pm. The Liberty Smokehouse is the perfect way to support local small businesses while also supporting our amazing veterans.

Connect with and support other Tampa Bay Veterans and Veteran Owned Businesses, check out our Tampa Bay Veterans Community.

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