(AllHipHop Features) Chef Malik Rhasaan has been universally acclaimed for his community activism in Occupy the Hood, which spawned the remarkable 2011 Time Magazine Person of the Year nod. While ate the forefront of a number of movements, he was a always a "life inspired chef." Now, Rhasaan has taken on a moniker to represent his progressive moves forward - Che Butter Jonez! The Che Butter Jonez Food Truck is how Rhasaan shares his love of food with the masses through and this is a family affair, as his wife and children play an invaluable part of the growing business. Located throughout Atlanta, Chef Malik Rhasaan defines "Refined Ratchet" - from Farm to Block!
AllHipHop: First of all, congrats! How does this accomplishment feel?
Thanks brother! It feels great. I have a mix of emotions honestly. Sometimes it feels like the greatest thing ever, other times it feels like the dumbest thing I've ever done in my life, but overall it feels DOPE! We have established a family business. This will be the legacy we leave behind for our children.
AllHipHop: How long did it take to get the truck up and running and to the people?
Che Butter Jonez: This was a very long and painful process, and it shouldn't have been. First, our builder dropped the ball and delayed our process for a over a month after telling us the process would be 6 weeks. It ended up being a 12 week process with my wife and I designing the entire truck ourselves. Once the truck was ready for delivery, it took almost another month to get all of the permits, etc to even sale food to the people.
Atlanta is really figuring this Mobile food business thing out as they go. Every county does things a different way. Long story short, we started this process early February, and didn't get on the road until May. That caused a huge hit to our operational cost, because we had to pay two months' rent for a commissary that we couldn't use for two months.
AllHipHop: You have a 5-star rating on Yelp already and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Che Butter Jonez: Yeah, well we've had to have a few bogus one's removed, and that's a whole 'nother story! Instagram is the pocket! As for the 5 -star rating, people have been experiencing my food for a long time now, but now my food is mobile and readily available.
Five stars feels like 5 mics, Chuck! (Laughs)
AllHipHop: Source magazine reference noted. (laughs) One person's critique was its "too healthy." She still gave you a great review and was probably joking. What are your culinary offerings?
Che Butter Jonez: She must have been talking about those brussel sprouts and chic peas! We have something for everybody!
As for the culinary offerings, we have a lamb burger that we affectionately named, "That Sh!t Slambing." We have an ODE TO SPIKE LEE with our "Who Let Mookie Make the Pasta." Then there's our Carmelita Cakes, which are salmon cakes made with spinach and couscous steeped in orange juice affectionately named after my Muva. There's our famous Chic-N-the Garden which is a chicken salad made from rotisserie chicken (skin on), Lamb Ragout, and sides like Parmesan Truffle fries. Man, I'm just getting started, there are items I haven't even introduced yet. I keep is simple and let the flavors compliment themselves.
If it were up to me I wouldn't have a menu!
AllHipHop: How did this all begin?
Che Butter Jonez: It began in my grandfather's kitchen. I remember everyone stopping by his house with an expectation of beef patties being served. It was in that moment that I realized it was okay for a MAN to cook. The next time I was on my way to a concert at the Jacob Javitz Center and my mother said I have these shrimp and you're not going to be able to eat them if you leave now. I put my jacket down, cooked the shrimp and da homies who were headed to the concert with me said I should be a chef! LOL, I didn't take it seriously though. However, over the years I have continued to use food to build bridges with people. Hell, I even cooked the food for our wedding reception and blew my mother-in-law away! I know that's how I bagged my wife! LOL.
The food truck idea became a reality after we left Ferguson. I was trying to figure out what to do next with my life and my wife begged me to open a restaurant. She just kept expressing how my food connects people. She said it disarms them, and that makes the conversation or truth easier to digest. It was after several of those types of conversations that we developed a plan and started to put that plan in motion.
AllHipHop: Now, you have a background in activism. Is that fair to say? Is this in any way an extension of those efforts?
Che Butter Jonez: Absolutely. But you knew the answer to that homie (Editor's note: I definitely knew the answer! LOL!). My first act of activism was feeding people. How I met my wife was through feeding people, so this is definitely an extension of my activism. "You can't free the people, if you can't feed the people!" I think it's fair to say that I have a background in activism,..I'm always active in a hood near you!
AllHipHop: Speaking of activism, you are very vocal about the state of things, especially social media. You had Occupy The Hood and were even listed in Time magazine at the time.
Che Butter Jonez: Yes, I was honored as Time Magazine's Person of the year in 2011. It was a great honor and one of many bestowed upon me for doing what I believe should be second nature to all of us, which is caring about your community and the current state of those who reside within it. I'm still vocal, even my truck is an act of resistance. We're different and that's on purpose!
AllHipHop: How did your efforts or disillusionment with the movement get you to this place?
Che Butter Jonez: I realized the movement was a hamster wheel of people saying what they wanted to see for a community, but not actively doing it! My motto from the very beginning has been, "Do Some Sh#t," so how could I be talking about Back businesses, or the lack of Black businesses, if I weren't actively working to create one? How could I speak of food deserts, and not actively be putting good food in our communities where good food is lacking?
I've worked with every name in the movement, and hardly anyone was willing to create anything tangible. Everyone wanted to create some shit in cloud. Hungry people aint in the cloud homie!
We've had people donate us land in different states only to lose it because our comrades in those states weren't walking the sh#t they were talking. I realized I was sitting in rooms with billionaires talking about how to feed the impoverished, while scarfing down jumbo shrimp and unlimited cocktails. It wasn't real...and I couldn't honestly live or function in that world. I need to actively work with people to change the things that we wish to change.
AllHipHop: What is your favorite dish and what is are the hottest sellers?
Che Butter Jonez: I haven't created my favorite dish yet. My hottest seller has honestly been our flash-fried brussel sprouts! Like who in the hell knew people would be loving brussel sprouts like that? That Sh!t Slambing is a hit, and the Lamb Fries No Balls, always gets the same reaction when we hand them their box, "Holy Shit!"
AllHipHop: Where can people find you in the streets and online?
Che Butter Jonez: We in the A man! My wife works hard to get us booked, and we collectively work to cultivate those relationships to generate more business. Our website (www.chebutterjonez.com) has a "Where We At" tab that list our daily locations. If a day is blank, BOOK US! (Laughs) Seriously, we keep the site updated daily with our locations. People can chat with us directly from our website, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn under "Che Butter Jonez". Oh and YES, we Cater!
We offer gift cards, and encourage our out of town folk to donate meals to friends/family here in the A! Donations can also be sent through Cashapp: $Chebutterjonez