Free ski-lift passes and restaurant life in Jackson, Wyoming, brought the three owners of The Black Thai food truck together in 2012.
J.L. Mann High School grads and longtime friends Brayden Wynn and Dean Johnson had moved to the ski-resort town after college graduation, where they met Charlie Phillip in the resort kitchen. They all worked on the line together.
“We thought ‘Charlie’s a funny dude,’” Johnson says.
They became fast friends and eventually roommates, and began to dream and scheme about owning their own restaurant.
After Wynn and Johnson moved back to Greenville, they were able to lure Phillip away from a catering job he had taken in Memphis, Tennessee, to make their dream a reality. They saw the food truck scene taking off and decided that was the direction they should take first.
Strangely enough, Thai food has a major presence in Jackson, so the three friends naturally gravitated towards that type of cuisine when thinking about concepts.
“Thai food warms you up,” Wynn says, which, he adds, is precisely why they’ve held off serving traditionally spicy Thai food from the truck so far.
“People don’t want to be sweating outside of the truck.” Wynn says.
The truck officially launched Aug. 31 at Piney Mountain Bike Lounge, and they’ve received rave reviews so far, but there’s been one consistent criticism.
“The biggest knock we’ve gotten is that the word ‘Thai’ is on the side of our truck,” Johnson says. “We wanna stress that we are Americanized Thai.”
And that’s been a strategic move on their parts to be sure they can produce a product about which they were 100 percent confident. Those include The Black Thai burger served on an English muffin topped with the secret “bolo” sauce, Muenster cheese, and shishito peppers; Asian zoodle salad; Brussels sprouts bowl; wings flavored with ginger soy, buffalo sambal, or spicy apricot; and the newest addition of pad Thai fried rice.
“We are American food with Thai flavors,” Wynn says.
Phillip, who’s been cooking his whole life and is the chef of the operation, says he views it as making food, no matter the ethnic origin, with Thai ingredients.
“If I want to make Thai meatballs, I can,” he says, adding the creative freedom he has is one of the perks of this job.
The weather also plays a role in menu creation.
“Once it gets cooler out, we’ll have more traditional Thai,” Wynn says.
Now with four to five gigs a week — either private parties or serving at bars and breweries such as The Community Tap, Grateful Brew, and Fireforge Crafted Beer — they are finding their stride.
Phillip says that means they’ll start working with a wok in the truck and serving curries and soups. The next step is also to grow the catering business and the food truck’s following.
“This is a segue to brick and mortar,” Wynn says. “We have a vision here. It’s a passion that’s brought us together.”
Wynn, who also works full time as a commercial real estate broker with Collett, says they are currently scouting locations but have no plans of jumping into a permanent space that doesn’t fit with their vision.
“We want it to go somewhere,” Johnson says. “We’re all relatively young and ambitious. We see the growth happening in Greenville, and we want to be a part of it.”
Keep up with The Black Thai’s schedule on Instagram @theblackthaigvl.