by Malcolm Jolley

OK, technically an Airstream is a trailer, not a truck. But a truck pulled Josh Henderson converted kitchen trailer around when he began cooking for people in Seattle parking lots in 2007, which makes him a ‘Food Truck Pioneer’. Skillet Street Foods founder Henderson was in Toronto recently to promote his bacon jam. I caught up with at All The Best Fine Foods, which hosted a product launch party with local chefs like Claudio Aprile, Chris McDonald and Nick auf der Mauer riffing on the product.


Good Food Revolution: What exactly is Skillet Street Food?

Josh Henderson: Skillet Street Food started out as a street food company in Seattle. We based it out of an Airstream trailer and in 2007 we started serving what we called “haute cuisine out of a truck”. We do modern American food and at the time it was something that hadn’t been seen in Seattle and not much around the United States either. So we started by doing street food, then we started selling a condiment we called “bacon jam” and now we have a diner. That’s Skillet Street Food in a nutshell.

GFR: Let’s go back to this decision to start a restaurant in trailer. You [already] had a background where you were traveling around and cooking, right?

JH: Yeah, [I was a traveling chef] for about two or three years prior. I had done the whole working in hotels and restaurants thing up until about 2004. I was kind of done with it. Honestly, I missed my dog and was tired of working long hours. I thought, this just isn’t worth it. So, I started to work in the photography world where I would go out with photographers, travel around and feed them in the middle of nowhere, like the Mojave Desert. At six in the morning I would be doing breakfast for 30 people on a tarmac somewhere. I absolutely loved it, but the travel was tough, so after a few years I decided to try and do something that would keep me closer to home. I ended up finding an Airstream trailer on Craigslist and that was it. We were off and running, with very many bumps in the road, as with any small business. But it’s been an amazing ride, for sure.

GFR: Culminating in a bricks and mortar restaurant. What are the differences between the trailer and the diner?

JH: Well, the diner gives us a lot more freedom. In the trailer we’ve got four burners, two fryers and a grill. So, our [trailer] menu is only three or four items a day. Whereas at the diner, we’re open from 7am to midnight each day and we can do whatever we want. Trailer is elusive – it’s harder to find: either we’re out, or we’re not, or the truck broke down. There’s all kinds of stuff going on, so the diner’s consistent – it’s there – and it represents our brand in a broader scope.

GFR: When you started going around in your trailer, what was the reaction? Did people get it?

JH: Yeah. It was astounding, to be honest. We had ridiculous amounts of press from day one (we still do). There has always been a line. Although it’s amazing, even with all the press, there are many people who still don’t know [about us] and I love that because it means there still more people we can tell our story to. So, it was a great first response, but we were still swimming upstream since there really was no other street food in Seattle at the time. The city officials certainly didn’t see any reason to change the rules. When we came along, that’s what we were hoping would happen. Three years later they finally did.

GFR: How does that work? Can you just park your trailer anywhere?

JH: You can now. You have to go through certain permits and get permission form certain people, but you can park it pretty much anywhere in the city now, as long as you’ve jumped through the right hoops.You used to have to operate on private property only.

GFR: Speaking of going anywhere, you’re here in Toronto because you’ve got this product in a jar.

JH: Meat in a jar!

GFR: The label says “Skillet Bacon Spread”?

JH: That’s right, but we all know that it’s “Bacon Jam”.

GFR: Is that some technical term you have to use?

JH: Yeah, the USDA requires we call it bacon spread because they say jam is something that uses pectin and is fruit based. So, we hope, of course, to change that too. If we get enough people making bacon jam it can become an actual condiment category and the USDA will realise that pigs really are fruit too!

GFR: And how did your bacon jam happen?

JH: I was inspired by a burger place in LA called Father’s Office. They do this sort of onion compote and they have this burger that has blue cheese, this onion compote and bacon. When I would open up my bun, it looked like this combination was amalgamated together. I thought this should be a whole compote together and I started playing with that and started using it my catering. It’s obviously evolved over the years. I’ve made it a little more user-friendly, but it’s basically the same thing, just five ingredients including great bacon, which makes a big difference.

GFR: And how would you counsel the average consumer to use your bacon jam?

JH: I think of it as a meat pesto, in a way. You can use it, obviously, on burgers and grilled items. And paninis make for a kind of perfect marriage. Or you could use it in a pasta, as a base for a carbonara, with a little cream. Or you could use it as the base for a vinaigrette, or a thumbprint for scone, or something like that. On eggs, on baked potatoes: there’s a lot of different ways. We were playing with it the other day and we put it on a burger with peanut butter. I wasn’t looking forwad to that, but I tasted it and it was pretty delicious.

Find out more about Josh Henderson at

Malcolm Jolley is the executive director of Good Food Media, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to educating the public about artisanal food and the publisher of Good Food Revolution. Follow him at