Although I have only been in the Ormond/Daytona Beach area for a few weeks now, it has quickly become apparent that the local food truck scene is on the rise. After indulging in their chicken and waffles dish at a recent food truck rally, last week I had the pleasure of getting to know the spirited family behind the Ormond Beach based Southern State of Mind food truck.
Lee and Jen Buckner and their daughters Bella (13) and Gabby (8) exemplify the concept of a family-run business with all four family members hustling on board their big, bold truck to dish out low lowcountry Southern classics with a Floridian flare. I met with the Buckners on the 20th anniversary of Lee and Jen's first date and learned that the colorful history the couple has forged since then is nothing short of fascinating. From stints in law enforcement, landscaping, limo driving, catering, bed and breakfast concierge and fine dining cooking to their current role as purveyors of indulgent Southern cuisine, the Buckners have woven their diverse experiences into a vibrant family business. On any given day you can catch them dashing between their meat smoking operation, dance recitals, their Worship by the Sea organization and that hard-to-miss turquoise and organize food truck, never without their signature beaming smiles.
Southern State of Mind's scratch cooking is equally as enjoyable as the family's infectious enthusiasm. From their 18-hour smoked meats, lip-smacking BBQ sauce made using their family favorite Cheerwine soda, to their addictive Bacon BBQ Potato Salad, everything the Buckners serve up is homemade and packed with flavor and care. Good luck trying to decide between their equally delicious signature Lowcountry Shrimp 'n Cheesy Grits, Pulled Pork and Chopped Brisket Sliders, but be sure not to miss their Not Your Mama's Creamed Corn (hello pimento cheese heaven) and if you can snag one before they sell out, a Bacon Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookie. If you have made it this far without drooling on your screen, learn even more about Southern State of Mind and the Buckner family in the interview below:
Q: Ok let's start with a little background, what got you into the food truck business? Lee: I worked in nice restaurants throughout Charleston, South Carolina for years and we had a successful catering business going but really wanted to branch out into a family operation and the food truck just kind of came along as a blessing.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when developing new menu items? Lee+Jen: Our food is really a mix of my lowcountry Southern background and what we consider classic Florida cuisine but our dishes just come from cooking for the love of it and enjoying serving things that make people happy.
Q: If you could have any one person eat at your truck, who would it be? L: Absolutely my dad. He was a foodie before there even was a such thing as a foodie, but he passed before having a chance to eat at the truck.
Q: What is your biggest crowd pleaser menu item? L+J: Well, the Pulled Pork Sliders are consistently our best seller and the Chicken and Waffles with Maple-Sriracha Drizzle is always a hit, but our Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits is what we consider our signature dish.
Q: What's your favorite guilty pleasure food other than your truck? L: Something I call the Kanawha Valley Trifecta - pizza from Husson's, biscuits and gravy from Tudor's Biscuit World and "Hot Dog" pastries from Spring Hill Pastry Shop all in Kanawha Valley, West Virginia. J: Don't listen to Lee, our family favorite that we all agree on is definitely sushi, or maybe raw oysters.
Q: Bucket list travel destination? L: Hawaii. J: Italy.
Q: What are your goals for the truck in the future? L: I would love to ultimately open a full-time restaurant in Ormond Beach. J: Did Lee say a full-time restaurant?? I'd want a second truck!
Q: I believe you can tell a lot about a person with this question, so answer carefully...what are your favorite pizza toppings? L: Pepperoni, pineapple, banana peppers, green olives (must be green)...and bacon J: Anchovies!
Q: Who is your ultimate taste tester that gives the green light to add a new menu item? L: My wife. J: Did he say me? Yes, I suppose it is me. Lee cooks from the heart so it is usually a collaborative effort. The only thing we differ on is spicy versus non-spicy!
Q: Last one, one thing you want people to know about your truck? L+J: Everything we make is homemade and we do real pit BBQ, smoking our meats for 18 hours each week using kiln dried Florida hickory wood. Also, that you can accomplish anything with your family and that it is well worth it and a great example for the kids.
Well, despite the fact that Lee told me, a Jersey girl raised on New York pizza, that pizza in West Virginia puts New York's to shame, interviewing the Buckner family was fun (and delicious!). Be sure to check out the Southern State of Mind Facebook page for updates on their locations, so you can track down the Buckners on their family food truck adventure.
Southern State of Mind Food Truck & Catering
386) 547-3568 | Ormond Beach, Florida