Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gourmet on 18 wheelsGourmet on 18 Wheels; Nationally Known Chef and Disaster-Relief Helper Has a $500,000 Kitchen on Wheels

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gourmet on 18 wheelsGourmet on 18 Wheels; Nationally Known Chef and Disaster-Relief Helper Has a $500,000 Kitchen on Wheels

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY MARAGHY

Veteran chef Larry Grosshans of Middleburg has catered $200-per-plate gourmet galas for presidents and Hollywood stars. But he'd rather grill burgers for hungry disaster victims.

"It's a whole other thing to feed a person who has just watched his house wash away," said Grosshans, who first tasted disaster relief when helping feed Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Louisiana. "There's something intrinsically good about putting yourself in a situation where you can have such an impact on people's lives. Food is a basic need."

During the stint in Louisiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was screaming for people to feed evacuees in Louisiana, Grosshans said. Meanwhile, he thought the mobile food trailers were too small for the job.

So last year he designed and ordered his own $500,000 industrial kitchen inside a semi-tractor trailer with a serving line that can feed 20,000 people per day.

Recently, his 53-foot 18-wheeler, created by the makers of NASCAR's promotional trailer and the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile, was delivered to his secluded six-acre property off County Road 220.

He'll use it for catering when he's not at a disaster. He's working on getting registered as a contractor with FEMA, the American Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies across the country. He has about five chefs and drivers on call, including his wife, Barbara, who recently sold her limousine service but still holds a commercial driver's license.

Chef Waymond Watson, who owns Catering by Cuzins in Arlington and has worked 11 years with Grosshans at major hotels and restaurants in Jacksonville, said he's blown away by the mobile kitchen.

"I have worked in over 100 kitchens but I've never seen one that resembles a 5-star kitchen on wheels," Watson said. "It's absolutely outstanding."

Equally impressed by the truck and by Grosshans' spirit and know-how is Jennifer Ziegler of Lake Asbury, the real estate agent who sold Grosshans his house and recently agreed to help him market his business.

"He's really a cool guy with a phenomenal resume. It's like working for Emeril," said Ziegler who said she watched in awe as Grosshans interviewed a bride client. …

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