Lyons Township High School alumnus Jeff Doornbos knows his smoked meats and passion for cooking up pulled pork sandwiches, barbecued brisket and other tasty American comfort food led him to leave a career in finance and technology consulting to start a food truck business. His gamble paid off because American Glory has been a smashing success since it opened in 2017.
For the second year in a row, the food truck will be at the Taste of Chicago, one of the area’s signature summertime festivals. The event runs from July 11 to 15 in Grant Park.
Doornbos, 41, said while the Taste of Chicago is a lot of work and very busy, he really enjoys being a part of it.
“The city opened [the Taste] up to food trucks, which allows small business owners like myself to serve a greater number of people,” he said. “I also like the atmosphere, and I like being a part of the Chicago culinary scene. It’s very diverse, and people in the industry are very passionate about what they do.”
Doornbos first became interested in smoking meat as a teenager, when he and his brother would often gather around a fire to barbecue. He said his interest grew from there, and while he never attended culinary school, he cooks everything on the menu on site. Doornbos’ truck, which he built himself, is licensed in Cook County as a mobile kitchen and has undergone many inspections by the Illinois Health Department to ensure he’s complying with the state regulations.
Customers regularly line up at lunchtime before American Glory opens at its weekday parking spot near Chicago’s Willis Tower to get one of its award-winning sandwiches or homemade bread pudding.
“The food speaks for itself, be it a restaurant or food truck. People remember the food and their experience,” Doornbos said. “We’re one of the highest-rated food trucks in Chicago and won awards last year at the Taste [of Chicago].”
Janet Wagner, who works across the street from the food truck, frequents American Glory several times a month. She’s usually one of the first people in line at 11 a.m.
“It’s phenomenal. I’ve tried everything on the menu, and it’s all good,” she said. “The pulled pork is tender and juicy, and they take their time with it. There’s so much to choose from, and it’s nice because people don’t always have time to sit down at a restaurant during their lunch hour.”
Doornbos, who lives in Burr Ridge, also brings his truck to events and private parties all over the city and suburbs and said he frequently visits the La Grange area. He’s hoping to expand his business to cater more private events, and he also wants to expand the food truck industry in Chicago and the suburbs. He said compared to most cities across the U.S., Chicago is behind when it comes to food trucks.
“Chicago has 122 licensed food trucks, and most other major cities have thousands,” Doornbos said. “The city is very strict about its rules and regulations for food trucks, so it’s hard to get involved. And there are a limited number of spaces to park the truck. But we have a good opportunity [to grow] here. Everybody likes food trucks.”
Doornbos’ brother, Dennis, who helps out at American Glory, said he’s very proud of his brother for following his dreams. The two brothers are working on starting a food truck park in Chicago so people can experience a variety of different foods in one location, Dennis said. He said he’s surprised a city as big as Chicago doesn’t already have one.
“We’re a food city, and people are missing out by not having [a food truck park],” Dennis said. “[Jeff] has put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into his truck. It was a big undertaking, and he took off and ran with it. He’s looking to help grow the food truck industry because he cares about the community aspect of it.”