Jillian Gay named her food truck for herself and her dad. She’s The Farmer’s Daughter; he’s the farmer.
Dad specializes in chicken and pigs at his New Ground Farm in Deer Park. Daughter, a trained chef, loves breakfast.
So, “Almost everything (on her menu) has an egg on it or some kind of salty pork,” she said.
Gay debuted her Farmer’s Daughter food truck with a soft launch just over three months ago. Since then, business has been picking up. Many mornings, she sells out of menu items from her regular spot in front of Indaba Coffee Roasters near the corner of North Howard Street and West Main Avenue in downtown Spokane
“Every week, it’s better and better,” she said.
In fact, a couple of weeks ago, a crew from Cooking Channel’s “Cheap Eats” was in Spokane, filming her for a segment slated to air, she said on her food truck’s Facebook page, “not until August.”
Meantime, try her signature fried egg sandwich ($8).
Gay, who goes by the nickname Jill, tops handmade whole-wheat sourdough English muffins with a fried egg from her dad’s farm, local cheese, garlic aioli and a choice of bacon, ham or “truck-made” breakfast sausage.
“I’ve always loved eggs,” she said. “I eat eggs every day. They’re so fragile and perfect. And they’re so easy to overcook. When you make the perfect over-medium egg – on just a plain piece of toast even – it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s simple but perfect. Whenever a yolk breaks, it’s a bummer.”
Her menu is fairly straight-forward. The focus is high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and scratch-made breakfast fare.
Her dad, Dave Gay, is her main supplier – at least he is for her staples: eggs and pork. The rest of her ingredients she aims to source from other local farms, such as Urban Eden Farm in Spokane and Full Bushel Farm in Cheney.
“Of course, I can’t be 100 percent, but I’m trying to be fiercely local,” she said. “I’m going to do all kinds of fun stuff when (the season) really gets going.”
She also hopes to learn pressure-canning so she can stock locally grown food for winter. She already makes all of her own jams and makes her own breakfast sausage.
“I do a jam of the week,” she said. “I don’t cure my own bacon – yet. But it’s on the agenda.”
She also makes a PBJ and B – peanut butter, jelly and bacon – sandwich ($8). “It sounds crazy, but it really works,” she said.
It’s not always peanut butter, either. Gay makes her own nut butters. One week it might be almond. Another week it might be pecan.
Gay’s a fan of straight-from-the-farm ingredients and the DIY movement. Both are having a moment. “Everybody’s doing farm-to-table,” she said. “It’s almost expected in this town.”
Gay, 43, moved back to the Inland Northwest in March 2016 with the goal of getting back into the food industry and starting a food truck. She had worked at both Luna and Mizuna for a short time in her 20s in the mid-1990s. Since then, she mostly visited the area, coming home for the holidays.
“I think I have a gypsy spirit,” she said. “I think it’s the military background. It’s in my blood.”
Her father, the farmer, is a former military man. He was in the Navy, prompting moves throughout her childhood. Her parents settled in the Inland Northwest in 1992, and she’s lived here on and off ever since – in between stints in Portland, where she went to culinary school; Seattle, where she worked at a series of now-defunct restaurants and became a black jack dealer; and the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spent about 10 years working as a photographer. She specialized in real estate photography – and driving long distances.
“I was averaging about 150 miles a day, basically a loop around the bay,” Gay said. “A big part of my day was figuring out how long it was going to take to get to this house from another house.”
While she enjoyed photography, it “wasn’t my passion,” she said. “I like it. I was good at it. But it wasn’t fulfilling the way cooking is.”
As she moved her way up and down the West Coast, her parents began encouraging her to come back, saying, “Spokane is changing. It’s getting hipper.”
Last year, she finally agreed and decided to return to her roots: her family and her cooking.
It took a couple of months to outfit the truck, an old University of Washington book mobile, which – as far as she knows – never traveled off campus. It was renovated in Nampa. Getting it there was no small feat.
“It took three tries to get it to Idaho,” Gay said, noting she learned something from the break-downs. “To tow a truck that size is not cheap.”
These days, Gay’s working on perfecting a drop buttermilk biscuit recipe. So look for that.
Other specials are crispy smashed potatoes, a veggie breakfast quesadilla, quarter-pounder breakfast burger, pork chop sandwich, omelet sandwich, sourdough hotcakes, and a French toast sandwich on an egg batter-soaked English muffin with cinnamon-maple mascarpone and a choice of sausage or ham.
Food truck hours and locations vary. But Gay can often be found parked outside Indaba’s downtown and West Central locations. She posts her schedule on the food truck’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/farm2truck. The complete menu can be found online on her website at farmersdaughterfood.com.
Gay rents commercial kitchen space in Spokane Valley for prep. While she’s had some help from a few friends, for the most part, “I’m doing everything myself.”
If the momentum keeps up, she said, “I’m going to have to hire someone.”