Food truck nonprofit helps veterans get their culinary chops

Call him Fusilli Dan. Dan Lee, 30, an Army veteran, recently opened the new Farina Pasta Bar food truck with the help of the Food Truck Incubator, a nonprofit for veterans and spouses of active-duty military personnel.
The Sayreville native enlisted after graduating from high school and served until 2015.

“You meet a lot of different people,” Lee said. “It’s really diverse. You have to learn to work with everyone in different situations.”

Lee was part of a 60-man explosive ordnance disposal unit in Georgia.

“You might find something like an old World War II grenade in your grandfather’s munitions, or something might suddenly turn up in Savannah Harbor, or something might happen at the airport,” he said.

Dan Lee recently opened the Farina Pasta Bar food truck. Taylor Lee

The Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, resident enjoyed cooking whenever he had the time, inspired by his mother, a former food scientist, and learned techniques from her, including making pasta sauce from scratch.

So after leaving the Army, Lee earned a degree in culinary arts. Drexel University He studied abroad in Philadelphia while on military duty, and then in Rome, where he had an epiphany.

“I realized there was no fast-casual pasta restaurant. [in the US] “It’s homemade pasta,” Lee says. “What I wanted to offer was a casual dining experience where you can have fresh pasta and great sauces and it doesn’t cost $30 a plate.”

Lee began working in restaurants, pizza places and breweries, and also drove for DoorDash and Uber. During his research chef internship at Campbell’s, he realized working for someone else wasn’t ideal, so he bought and operated a food truck.

The plan went awry when Lee and his business partner were scammed out of $70,000 they had saved during their military service. But when life gave him lemons, Lee created Limoncello.

He discovered “ghost kitchens” — apartments for restaurateurs who sell exclusively online. “It’s a great story of redemption,” said Lee, whose experience as a militiaman has given him resilience. “You just keep going.”
The 200-square-foot kitchen was a big hit when it opened in October 2020. “Customers were happy. They loved the food and they loved the concept. That’s what kept us going.”

Jordan Foley’s Let’s Chow is offering a free “Food Truck MBA” to veterans and military spouses. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Public Affairs, Official Officers Portrait.

This expanded to restaurants, Farina Pasta & NoodlesThe moment that felt like everything came full circle came when, at an event in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square in 2021, I received a message on LinkedIn from Jordan Foley, 35, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Let’s Chow.

They offer a free “Food Truck MBA” to veterans and spouses of active duty military. Foley himself is currently on active duty as a Navy lieutenant commander and a national security lawyer for the Department of Defense. Let’s eat As a part-time, unpaid CEO.

Foley informed Lee about a food truck available in Atlantic City, and while Lee is further along than the other fellows, the program is self-paced and “totally hands-on. If you’re motivated and able and interested, we’ll get you where you need to be,” Foley says.

Foley’s goal with Let’s Chow is to “specialize in one industry and help veterans start their businesses from scratch,” and “the food truck has become the perfect business incubator.”

Since launching in January 2020 and raising funds through grants and donations, Let’s Chow has helped 57 people from more than 20 businesses launch five food trucks.

Farina Pasta Bar serves high quality, affordable Italian cuisine. Alfred B.

Foley, who has a culinary degree under his belt, meticulously manages the online application and program. Fellows receive a $1,500 stipend for each of four phases of study, which combine online and in-person learning and typically take 400 hours to complete. Once a fellow starts making money on their truck, the stipend ends.

The nonprofit utilizes marketing agencies, pro bono lawyers, accountants, food photographers and other resources to help fellows with logos, accounting, licensing, food law and more.

And, “they’re in charge of sourcing and purchasing the ingredients and marketing,” Foley said.

He now hopes to add more trucks and establish Chow Hall, a full-service incubator with a veterans’ collective, kitchen space, dining, warehouse, trucks, food storage and office space.

“we [truck] “Insurance, maintenance, regulatory fees. Rent is paid, insurance isn’t paid, so it’s a way for us to own it and be a little bit involved. We’re not going to be in the program forever, we’ll move on to the next program,” Foley said.

After speaking with Foley, Lee thought it was a “no brainer,” and last month opened Farina Pasta Bar, where the menu includes gnocchi with vodka sauce, spaghetti alla chitarra with pistachio pesto, gelato and sorbet.

Lee has leased the truck for three years and will service pop-up events, weddings and corporate events in New Jersey, Philadelphia and other areas. He shared the truck’s location here: Instagram Next event will be held in Millville TD Bank Music & Food Truck Festival June 8th at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Lee credits his time in the Army as the secret to his success.

“I don’t think I could do what I do if I wasn’t in the military. It’s a huge workload. You put in the work every day,” said Lee, who wakes up before dawn to manage five employees and work until 10 p.m. “You go home, wake up and do it all again the next day. You have to do it consistently. A lot of that discipline I developed in the military.”

This tenacious, mission-focused work ethic has Lee looking to expand nationally, add more trucks and base himself on military bases to compete with brands like Chipotle and Kava.

Lee invoked the spirit of Frank Sinatra, saying, “If we can make it here in the Northeast, we can make it anywhere else.”