Topekan Tre’Jor Hopkins has always had a passion for cooking. Growing up in the kitchen with his two grandmothers, he learned the ins and outs of the culinary arts at a young age.
That passion and drive to be a chef and entrepreneur has translated into a new food truck called Flavor Wagon.
Hopkins will operate the truck with the help of his fiancee, Sarah Hines, who will operate as the business’ chief financial officer and a few other cooks he has met throughout his cooking journey.
Flavor Wagon will make its debut in the Topeka community from 6-10 p.m. Oct. 10 at The Woodshed, 1901 N. Kansas.
Hopkins said he hopes to soft open the food truck at the end of October. Once open, the food truck will be parked at different locations around Topeka and various events.
According to Hopkins, Flavor Wagon will feature healthier food options like power bowls, flatbreads and tacos.
“One thing that I think will be really good is the power bowls,” Hopkins said. “We are using ancient grains for those so bulgur wheat, freekeh wheat, quinoa and basically it’s like a build-your-own bowl so it will be a Chipotle type of thing.”
Customers will be able to fully customize their power bowl by adding everything from grains and vegetables to their choice of meat — steak, salmon, shrimp or chicken.
The food truck will also offer options for vegans and vegetarians and have a variety of dressings and sauces as well, Hopkins said.
Hopkins hopes to host a community barbecue on Saturdays, although a location for those hasn’t been set yet.
The food options and recipes Hopkins will serve at the food truck have been inspired by his family’s Southern roots, as well as the many places he has traveled throughout his life.
Hopkins has taken the seasoning and flavor aspect of Southern food and incorporated it into his dishes.
“The seasoning part, the flavor is the biggest thing in culinary,” Hopkins said. “Anybody can cook, but not everybody can make it taste good. That’s a huge part of what I was taught.”
Hopkins has also been influenced by the people and places he has visited, like Mexico and Europe.
“The tacos — I got inspired by that in Mexico,” Hopkins said. “Walking down the streets seeing the street vendors, this is what they do for a living.”
Hopkins said bringing new flavors to Topeka is important to him, especially now when fewer people are traveling and aren’t getting to experience new culinary styles.
Hopkins, who has many years of experience working in restaurants around Topeka, said having his food truck finally come to fruition is a blessing.
The process of opening a food truck has been overwhelming, Hopkins said, but a wild ride. Despite the challenges, he has remained focused on his end goal.
“You have so many different things in life that hit you, especially as a young black male,” Hopkins said. “That’s something that I want to get across to them. Life is hitting us fast and things do happen, but it’s never over. You never can really fail unless you’re dead. Unless you cannot walk or move your hands or your mouth, you can change things. I just want people to understand that anything is possible. I’ve been working this for a long time.”
Hopkins said he hopes the food truck brings a family vibe and a healthier food culture to Topeka.
“I hope it inspires (people) to want to try some healthy trucks, maybe open some healthier restaurants,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said he wants making healthy food choices to becoming more of a conscious effort.
“It does matter what we eat and it does matter how we eat,” Hopkins said. “I just want to make being health-conscious a really big thing in Topeka. My grandpa died of a heart attack young, I’ve had a lot of family with major health issues, mainly because of how they took care of themselves.
“That’s another thing of why I had to learn to cook for myself. I wanted to know what can I make, what is this doing to my body. Also, I hope it brings some inclusive diversity. I hope that it brings out everybody. That’s all we want. We want everybody to come out, we want everybody to enjoy the truck, enjoy each other’s company.”