Michael Brown of Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express


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Hannah Hayes
The business: Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express

What they're packin': New Orleans- style dishes with a familiar, easy twist: Think Cajun favorites like Andouille sausage and shrimp, chicken and rice doused with zesty Creole and Etoufee sauce - all wrapped in a handy tortilla. There are even Cajun or Creole Tacos on the menu, served with cabbage slaw and black bean and corn salsa.

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Hannah Hayes
Last Saturday's Menu
What you need to know: The owner, Michael Brown, knows his Big Easy eats, but keeps it healthy. He's developed a way to create authentic Cajun food without using fat for flavor and instead adding whole, natural ingredients like sea salt, brown rice and his own salt-free spice mix called "magic dust." He believes that New Orleans- style food can be as good for the body as it is on the palette. 
  The story: Under the guidance of two chefs from New Orleans, Brown, who has over 20 years of cooking experience, began studying the "Chipotle fast-casual concept" with Cajun cuisine. He started a mobile food truck, he says, "because it gives people a chance to try the food in a convenient manner, and [accessibility] is the main idea."

Read more about Jamburritos after the jump.

Where'd you get the name?
MB: Basically, our signature item is Jambalaya in a burrito, so we took the words and molded them together. The name can mean different things to different people, though. Some people say it's a burrito that "jams." A burrito also seems to lend itself to quick service, and it's a Cajun grill express.

Describe your culinary background:

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Hannah Hayes
The BBQ Chicken Jamburrito with Hush Puppies

MB: I studied restaurant and hotel management and in the 80's, I went to New Orleans, knocked on doors and asked people to teach me Cajun cooking. Later I became the executive chef of a successful Cajun restaurant in the tri-state area; we expanded to two more in less than 6 years. But I wanted to serve more people and in a quicker way.

Describe any issues you came across with getting your operation off the ground:
MB: My mentor was instrumental in getting me through the permit process and with his guidance, no issues arose. The biggest challenge in the business is that we're pioneers in Arizona. [A mobile food truck] is not as embraced here as much as in L.A. or New York, so that's difficult.

Do you get people who are a little skeptical of the cart?

MB: If they're at the truck, their skepticism has been overcome, but most of the time it's people from New Orleans or hardcore Cajun fans who are skeptics of the Jambaylaya-in-a-burrito concept. My biggest excitement though is when newcomers approach and order a jamburrito, no questions asked.

With plans of expanding to 16 brick-and-mortar locations in the next five years, Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express currently sets up at the Phoenix Public Market from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and every third Thursday at the Whole Foods on Raintree in Scottsdale. Brown will have a cooking class at the Phoenix Public Market at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10; you can sign up here.

Stay updated via the Jamburritos website; like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

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1 comments
Nico Suave
Nico Suave

I keep going to the First/Third Fridays to eat 2 things: something from this cart, and something from Sweet Republic. Both make for happy foodtimes. His jambalaya is great, the chicken gumbo was awesome, and the dirty rice was my fave. Now to know that he is doing it with a healthy lean makes me even happier!

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