For Rick Johnson, cooking and smoking meat is something he has always liked to do. So after he retired from the Paris Police Department in 2015, he began giving the idea of starting a food truck some serious thought.

With friends and family loving his food -- and encouraging him to start up a business -- Johnson got together with his now partner Mitch Sanders to create their food truck the Chuck Wagon.

The duo, both Madison County natives, kicked around 100 names, according to Johnson, before settling on the Chuck Wagon.

In a previous life, the trailer was designed to look like a whiskey barrel and reminded Johnson of a wagon more than trailer.

"I was hauling the trailer, and I thought, 'This thing looks like a chuck wagon,'" Johnson said.

Historically, chuck wagons were types of field kitchens that were used to transport and store perishable food items and cooking equipment.

"I thought that would be a good idea for this," he said.

After establishing their identity, Johnson and Sanders began the long process of setting up their business and getting all of the necessary permits to operate in Madison County.

"It was a long process, and there is a lot that goes into it, but I was blessed, because Brandi from Vintage 18 has been a mentor through all of this," Johnson said.

Brandi Bowles is the owner of Richmond restaurant Vintage 18 and formerly operated a food truck.

"She really streamlined the process instead of stumbling around like we had no idea what to do," Johnson explained.

Both Johnson and Sanders attended food manager classes along with obtaining their food handler permits and had their truck inspected by the health department. And after paying for their licenses to operate in Richmond and Berea, they were incorporated as an LLC, making them Madison County's newest food truck.

The Chuck Wagon serves Americana type cuisine, offering burgers, hot dogs, fried bologna sandwiches and pulled pork.

Their most popular menu item, according to the partners, is their "PoPo burger," which is a half-pound fresh angus beef patty topped with American cheese and signature smoked pulled pork.

"It's a monster," Johnson laughed.

The "Cowboy burger" is the next biggest hit, with a half-pound patty with pepperjack cheese, bacon, onion, lettuce and tomato.

Johnson said the response to their food truck has been extremely supportive by everyone, and the business has even landed some small catering gigs.

"The feedback has been absolutely amazing," he said. "We have a couple of people say it's the best burger in town. We had a guy saying it is the best burger in Richmond, and even someone say that it is the best burger you could get off of a food truck. So I would say a good response so far."

The food truck's Facebook page with its five-star rating backs up the positive response with people raving about the Chuck Wagon's pulled pork and burgers.

Cindy Freeman posted on the food truck's page writing, "Best Smoked Pulled Pork I've ever had!! And the burgers are to die for! I look forward to every meal I get from the Chuckwagon; they're the real deal!!"

Carlos Coyle, director of Madison County EMS said, "Great burger! The slaw is excellent. Do yourself a favor and give them a try."

The Chuck Wagon has already partnered up with Dreaming Creek Brewery and the Bluegrass Barrel House, which they say is a win-win for everyone.

"They don't have food, and we don't have beer so it's worked out well for us," Johnson said.

The food truck has set up in Berea outside of McMahon's Wrecker Service shop on Main Street and also received a "great response" from the public.

"The mayor (Bruce Fraley) came over and said 'Hi' and hung out with us," he said. "We got a lot of fire department guys and a lot was traffic stopping by right off the street."

But Johnson said there are some days that he couldn't have done it without the help of some of the truck's biggest supporters, including Bowles and her husband, Travis, Al Davenport and Cindy Freeman.

Although he doesn't have plans to open a brick and mortar location for the food truck as of now, he hopes to be included in the Madison County County Fair and the Spoonbread Festival in Berea.

"We have been giving 100% since day one, from the get go," Johnson said.

To follow the Chuck Wagon and for more information, follow the food truck's Facebook page at

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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