The Chosen Cholent food truck has arrived.
You may already have tasted the smoked ribs, pulled brisket, whole chicken, and of course, the cholent that started it all when Rabbi Adam Gindea of West Orange launched his enterprise in 2015, as a fund-raiser when he was president of the Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David men’s club.
Now Gindea has entered a new era with a smoking hot truck, and he’s no longer cooking in the synagogue kitchen or just outside on his two small smokers. But he’s still connected to AABJ&D. In fact, when not in use the truck is usually parked in the lot behind the synagogue in West Orange, and on a recent Tuesday afternoon, Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler was admiring the business’s new abode.
The truck — custom built in Georgia and outfitted in Texas with two smokers, a grill, deep fryer, stove top, warmer, refrigerator, drawers, and full sink — is actually a trailer that attaches to Gindea’s pickup truck. It arrived mid-September, a few weeks before Rosh Hashana and just in time to work the Columbus Avenue Festival in New York City as part of the Greater MetroWest NJ Day School Showcase.
Day schools were not alone in being showcased. So were Gindea’s new signature menu items, including chili and cornbread, smoked drumsticks, and cholent puppies: balls of vegetarian cholent rolled in corn dog batter and deep fried, served with white barbecue sauce. Adding the grill and the deep fryers has given him the flexibility to branch out — he can envision adding steak or pretzel chicken, especially at private events. “It just depends on what people want. There’s no limit,” he said.
Although there are several kosher barbecue trucks in the country — like the Wandering Que (formerly Hakadosh BBQ), part of Gemstone Catering headquartered in Yonkers, NY; Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed in the Chicago area; and Joebob’s Kosher BBQ of Austin, Tex. — Gindea believes his is the first kosher barbecue truck where all the cooking is done on board.
“It’s crazy” is all he could say about the speed of business. “I kept thinking it would be great if I could smoke the food and have a food truck buy it. Then I realized, the only way that’s going to happen is if I have the truck.”
He started Chosen Cholent, which is under the kashrut supervision of Vaad Harabonim of MetroWest, after winning a 2014 cholent competition at a kosher grocery store in Brooklyn that benefited the nearby Masbia Soup Kitchen. Now his business is a fully licensed operating concern. He’s been hired for weddings and b’nei mitzva celebrations, is selling at street fairs around the New York metropolitan area, and offers Shabbat and holiday specials. He briefly considered a brick and mortar store, but didn’t want to go to Manhattan and was uncertain there would be enough local support to sustain a restaurant.
Even so, he still holds fund-raisers for the AABJ&D men’s club on Wednesday nights, with about 7 percent of the profits benefiting the congregation. Gindea has had to cut his teaching hours at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, where he was teaching Judaic studies and coordinating tefilot, but added a second part-time gig at the religious school of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston because, he said, “I love the teaching.”
Despite his success, he still doesn’t consider himself an expert on barbecue — not that it really matters. “I just happen to make it, and people like it.”