Daniel Smith never planned to be a chef. He was always good at cooking, but Smith said it was never what he saw himself doing as a career.
“Chef wasn’t really what I wanted to be when I grew up,” he said.
Growing up, Smith’s mother spent a lot of time with his sister because she was a world class gymnast, leaving him home with his father, who only knew how to cook breakfast.
“So from a very early age I learned to cook,” Smith said.
All these years later, it’s a skill that’s come in handy, as he and his wife, Joan, have started up a their new business It’s All Good. The concept is a food truck that offers more than the typical fried foods. Instead, the husband-wife duo combine his strengths as a chef and her strengths as a dietitian to present healthy options, from salads with fresh fruits and vegetables to hot and cold wraps.
It’s All Good is one of five finalists in this year’s Carroll Biz Challenge that will compete in the Live Finale on Thursday, Aug. 9.
The annual Carroll Biz Challenge, sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, showcases Carroll entrepreneurs during a show similar to the TV show “Shark Tank” for local startups at the Carroll Arts Center. The winner will receive $5,000 plus additional prizes worth thousands more to apply to their business costs.
Smith said he grew up in Carroll County. In the early 1990s, Smith opened a small cafe — the Down Under Café — in the former Westminster Bowling Center. From there, he moved around some, spent some time in Alabama where he operated a Schwann’s truck, and where he also worked another cooking job at a bar.
“I decided that I needed to find a career,” he said, and cooking was what he knew how to do.
When he came back to Maryland, he began working as a cook at Carroll Hospital and attended the Baltimore Culinary Institute where he majored in professional cooking and baking. Later, he completed the Dietary Manager Program at Baltimore City Community College and earned his Certified Dietary Manager and Certified Food Protection Professional credentials, according to an emailed biography.
Prior to the food truck, Smith was in health care, overseeing kitchens in retirement villages and similar facilities.
It was in health care where he met Joan Smith, who graduated from Seton Hill University with a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics – dietetics. Joan works as a dietitian in a health care setting, where she plans menus and therapeutic diets, and counsels patients on healthy eating.
The couple’s move from health care to food truck began with a catering gig.
“Last year we were asked to do a little bit of a catering [job] — it was actually a soccer tournament — and we thought, this wouldn’t be a bad full-time gig,” Daniel said.
Joan said her husband is a “really talented” chef, because he cooks with a lot of passion and uses a lot of fresh ingredients. Not only is the product tasty, she said, but it’s healthy.
When they started looking to move into food trucks, Joan said, they looked at already-built trucks. Daniel said they were using a tent and trailer set up prior to getting a truck.
“The more mobile we are the better it is,” he said.
But in shopping around, the couple couldn’t find a truck they liked, so instead they bought an old mail truck, and Daniel went through and built it to what he needed it to be.
“One of the things we do not have is a deep fryer,” he said. “We actually have an air fryer, so no grease, and it’s healthier.”
The mission right now, he said, has been trying to get the food truck out there and at events. They’ve been to some wineries and breweries, and done some work with nonprofits, he added.
“The menu really depends on the venue. If we go to a winery, we would have food that you could pair with wine or beer,” Joan explained.
Daniel said they’re also working with businesses to offer good food with healthier options for employees on their lunch break that adds another option that isn’t fast food.
“My goal is to actually come there and introduce some better options,” he added.
The next level would be creating good, healthy meals on the go for people to pick up and bring home, Daniel said. He described it as Meals on Wheels meets Hello Fresh meets TV dinners to take home.
The Biz Challenge could help make these goals a reality.
Daniel said if they win the challenge they’ll use the money to wrap the truck — the truck currently is white with a removable white sign with black lettering — and also to put a flat spot near their home, because their house is on a hill. But, these projects will take some time, he added.
“It’s a process,” Joan said. “It’ll take a while.”