On the Go with: Tumbleweeds Gourmet

Cassi Miller

Let me tell you a story. It was Halloween 2014, but for once there was no snow on the ground and the weather was tolerable enough to be outside sans coats. After a few libations in downtown Bozeman, my friends and I, dressed as a pirate, a lumberjack, and a hunter, were starving. We stepped out of the doors of the American Legion and before us sat a beautiful blue oasis of food: Tumbleweeds Gourmet On-the-Go food truck. We swarmed the truck with countless other revelers, gleeful at the thought of delicious fusion tacos. We were even more excited than normal because we had the inside track on a secret menu item. A delicious blend of barbecue, slaw, and, wait for it, macaroni and cheese, The Pig Mac. We waited behind zombies, witches, and movie characters, money in hand, and it was finally my turn to be served. I ordered the infamous Pig Mac and practically skipped to the other end of the truck to wait for my order. My friends stepped up to place their Pig Mac orders, but much to their horror, I had ordered the last one available. And that was the night I fell in love with Tumbleweeds.

Fast forward to a Friday afternoon in April, where Montana weather was doing its bi-polar routine of snow to sleet to sun to rain to snow, and I found myself sitting in the captain’s chair of my favorite Bozeman food truck, chatting with owner Jay Blaske.

: What made you want to own a food truck?

JB: Well my wife, who is also part owner of Tumbleweeds, and I had owned restaurants in Florida, but felt like we wanted a bit more freedom than a traditional restaurant allowed. When I met my wife, one of the first things she told me was that she wouldn’t be staying there. She wanted to return to Bozeman where she was born and raised, and I had to be alright with that. So, we moved. When our daughter was about two years old, we decided to start Tumbleweeds because we wanted to be able to spend more time with her. We’re now in our 6th year with the truck.

CM: So why Bozeman? What do you like about being here?

: Well first off the variety. There’s so many different places to go, so many people to see. It’s funny because I’ll be walking down the street and now I recognize someone, but because we’re mobile, I have to try and guess which location I know them from. And, they have the same response to me. Outside of the truck sometimes, you can tell people are trying to figure out where they know me from. But, I love that opportunity for change. We can go anywhere that wants us, we get to see new faces and places. It’s that flexibility. And there are challenges, too. Like today, for instance, the weather can present a challenge.

CM: How would you like to see the food truck scene grow in Bozeman?

: You know, people always assume that a food truck is a stepping stone to something else, an “actual” restaurant or something. And we had this idea in our heads when we began that maybe we would add more trucks, expand out that way. But for us, this is enough and we’re extremely happy. Everybody thinks that April is the beginning of food truck season, but we run all year long, and that always seems to surprise people. We can run 5 shifts a week out of this truck in the winter, but we can easily hit 20 shifts a week in the summertime. Last summer, I was working 80-90 hours a week. I had to because if I was going to expect my employees to do that, I felt like I needed to push myself. I realized I didn’t want to do that, so now our thing is actually running multiple staffs out of a single truck. But, there are already some really great opportunities around here. We’re getting more catering, we do the late night downtown stuff from time to time, but that isn’t really our main thing anymore, because we can go so many other places. We’re running at five days a week right now, but that will probably change as we move into the summertime. You have to live it, breathe it, eat it, and sleep it.

Bozeman is such a wonderful community. When we were first starting out, we worked really closely with the city and they were wonderful. For someone who’s starting out, I think they should find a mentor who’s doing what they want to do. They shouldn’t ask trade secrets, but they should ask how they overcame challenges, what they did to keep things going. And they should know the city, work to fit into the landscape. When you look at the restaurants in Bozeman, there are definitely some big fish in this small pond. When we first started going downtown, there was a bit of pushback. But, once they realized we were keeping patrons in their establishments longer, it became a really great relationship. That’s what it has to be. I don’t believe for one second that it’s about being better than the person next to you. I believe you have to be better than you were yesterday. People who do good attract good. It’s definitely a collective, a sense of community. We try to give back as much as possible. We’ve done work with Eagle Mount, Heart of the Valley, and Warriors and Quiet Waters. And it all comes back to you too. If you give, it’s returned to you. I believe in that positivity.

CM: So, what do you want people to experience when they eat here?

JB: I want people to experience eating food the way I enjoy making it. I want them to branch out. I want to exceed their expectations. When we began, our goal was to kind of do world fare, and we’re still doing that. We take the tortilla or the taco, which is inherently linked to Mexican food, and we smash it; we fuse it with other things. If you create good food, people will come back. We’re seeing that now. You can’t force people to recommend you. That has to happen organically. People will tell their friends, who tell their friends, and your creations speak for themselves. You have to consider what people really desire in food.

CM: To finish, what would you say is the most popular dish here? And do you have any upcoming events you’ll be serving at?

JB: Well, my favorite is the Asian pork. We like to serve it how people like it. That’s why we offer the tacos, burritos, bowls, and we even stock bread here sometimes to do sandwiches. As for events, we’re always excited for Red Ants Pats Festival in the summer, and this year we’ll be doing Lunch on the Lawn. We’re also on Facebook (facebook.com/TumbleweedsTruck), Instagram (@tumbleweedstruck), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/tumbleweedsbzn) so people can keep up with our schedule. We’ll always let people know where we’ll be next.

As I stepped off the truck that afternoon and into Outlaw Brewing for a golden glass of Goeman’s Gold, I just felt good after chatting with Jay. He cares about Bozeman and the people who he serves. He loves what he does and is extremely passionate about bringing something better to this community, leaving it better than it was before. As for my friends, did they ever get their Pig Mac? Yes. They get one every single time we stop at Tumbleweeds Gourmet On-the-Go.  

This was made by

Cassi Miller

Cassi is a writing instructor and veteran services tutor at MSU and also works for Montana Gift Corral. She loves exploring everything Montana has to offer and spending time with her husky named Flames. She can be reached at: cassijo79@gmail.com

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