COVID-19 has destroyed many a plan this year, but sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise. That’s what happened with Brian “Chimi” Chmielowski. He was living in St. Thomas with his wife Lindsay before the pandemic began after accepting an offer from his best friend’s parents to run the kitchen at a pub they were opening up. Chmielowski loved making meals for his friends and family, but this was a big step in following his passion for cooking.
"At this time I really don't have the experience, so I'm kind of nervous, but every kind of sign was telling me to do it and just to push forward and accept the offer,” Chmielowski says.
Fast forward to the pub moving up from number 28 to the top spot on TripAdvisor. Cruise goers flocked to the restaurant for its fun atmosphere and delicious food, but then the coronavirus hit, and no one was going on cruises any more. The couple had eventually planned a move back to the States to be closer to their families, but the pandemic cemented their plan, and they settled back in Arizona in July 2020. Chmielowski had first started thinking about started his own food truck business in 2018, and it quickly became a reality.
“I didn't think I was going to be ready until honestly next year, March or April of 2021, but just me coming back and putting my foot in the door, everything has kind of just gone steadily and as smooth as possible,” he says. “Nothing has taken a step back, and I’m just going with the flow, bringing all the cuisines I've made or ingredients I've actually come to love from St Thomas and incorporating them into my menu here.”
On the menu are gourmet hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, carne asada and chicken street tacos and hot dogs known as Dumpster Dogs. The tropical flair is found in dishes like the Island Chik with housemade pineapple salsa and island sauce and the Bodhi Boy, a hot dog topped with the same salsa and sauce. All sandwiches and hot dogs also come with a choice of side like pasta salad and a drink.
Everything has meaning, including the name of the truck. Chmielowski’s good friend Andrue Morales passed away earlier this year, and the two used to have a special slang term for getting food — “doof” or food spelled backwards. Additionally, Dumpster Dogs refers to the overpopulation of dogs on St. Thomas. Unfortunately many dogs there don’t get taken care of properly and end up in and around dumpsters as a source of food and shelter. The Chmielowskis took in two rescue dogs from the island, Bodhi and Luna, who both have a Dumpster Dog on the menu named after them. The couple is also looking to partner up with the Arizona Humane Society in the future in the hopes of donating a portion of proceeds to help other dogs in need.
Doof Truck’s grand opening is from 3 to 8 p.m. on October 25 at Tipsy Cactus TapRoom & Bottle Shop in Mesa, but Chmielowski is excited to drive around and explore different parts of the Valley, introducing more and more people to his type of food.
I'm excited to be in this industry. I've done it in St Thomas and succeeded out there, and I just hope that it all comes along with me. It’s just something I love to do,” says Chmielowski. “It doesn't become work anymore, it's just my passion, and I can't wait to have fun. That's the biggest thing.”