John Cleghorn is one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet. He and Shannon (his wife and the real boss of the business) are all smiles, even after working through the night to prepare for a busy day of catering.
Maybe that’s why people in their community want to help them out so much. Through John’s battle with Leukemia to getting their food truck business rolling, they point to their community in Finneytown, Ohio as a source of strength and support.
My Experience: Bringing Community to the Table
John, Shannon, their family and crew are featured in our video series, “My Experience…. Bringing My Story to the Table.” The series explores the journeys, passions and experiences of food service professionals working in different environments. Following their story below, John answered our questions about his experience in business and BBQ.
Q&A With John Cleghorn from Jon Jon’s BBQ & Catering
Tell us about the decision to go into business with the food truck. What kind of response did you get from family and friends?
John Cleghorn: “At the time many of our family and friends thought we were crazy! We had no money saved and we spent all we had to start. But I knew we could do it! Shannon and I are so blessed to have such a great marriage and we have always worked extremely well together. I knew if we gave it our best together that God would do the rest. Also, some of the family was worried because we had to work so hard to get started but, nothing in this life comes easy!”
What inspires your cooking? Who taught you to cook?
JC: “I think my inspiration is simply good food and having a lot of fun while doing it! I’m a freak about doing things right when it comes to BBQ and there is an incredible satisfaction when someone tastes my food for the first time and loves it! My parents were both great cooks and my grandmother was even better. When it comes to BBQ I learned by watching BBQ competition shows and trial and error. We started doing BBQ competitions for fun and we learned a ton from doing those. I also read a ton of BBQ books and I’ve taken a few trips to famous BBQ spots to try their food and get ideas.”
Describe your sauces and how you developed them.
JC: “My sauces are really my own creation. I like certain flavors so I worked through trial and error to find them. I’d say my original is more a Memphis-style sauce… sweet, a touch of heat, and long on flavor. My fruit sauces are very unique and came from my love of fruit on BBQ. Cherry is probably my favorite flavor so after developing my original cherry was a natural next step for me. Since my cherry was on the more hot side I want an opposite to that, so I started thinking of what goes well with beef as I thought the cherry really fit great with the pork and chicken. The little bit of sourness of blueberries brought out the flavor of the beef so I tweaked the Cherry Bomb recipe removing the chipotles and replacing it w black pepper to tame the heat. Finally my White Smoq came from imitating Big Bob Gibson’s famous white sauce. I added my own unique flair and I don’t think there is nothing better on poultry!”
What have been some of the more successful tactics for promoting your business?
JC: “Food! The food has to be good plain and simple!! Word of mouth and social media do the rest.”
How about some advice for someone thinking they want to open a food truck?
JC: “Food truck life is hard! You have to love it and don’t expect to get rich quick. There has to be passion for food and a love of cooking. Otherwise it’s just too much hard work to make it worth it! Did I say prepare to work harder than you ever have!? Serving and selling the food is the easy part. The prep takes a lot of long hours and sleepless nights!
“Have a good team! I can’t say enough about this. No one person can do it all. Having a good team who can step in at the right times is vital!
“The old saying, ‘If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life’ is so true when it comes to food truck life!”
Visit Jon Jon’s BBQ on Facebook to see what they’re up to next.
See our stories and pass the inspiration at hubert.com/experience.