Business Spotlight: Full Belly Happy Heart
When Juan Lozano was a kid, he worked as a migrant worker with the rest of his family, traveling from Texas to Washington to work in produce fields. As far as he was concerned, it was a normal childhood.
“I didn’t know any better. To me, this was life.” But still, it was work. Hard work. One day, his aunt called him inside to eat. “Pansa llena, corazon contento,” she told him in Spanish: “Full belly, happy heart.”
“It was a feeling of comfort when she told me that,” says Lozano. “It wasn’t just like, ‘Hurry up and get back to work!’ Instead, it was, come in. Get some energy, comfort yourself.’” And he never forgot it.
Lozano’s love of cooking was passed down by his father, who raised him on his own along with his brother and sister. Dad did all of the family cooking, Lozano watched, and he learned. When he met his life partner and now business partner Marissa Gohl, who was born in Peru, he decided to cook her a Peruvian meal on a date.
“It was the best thing I had ever tasted in my life,” she said. She told him: “We could legitimately sell this!”
The two went and looked at a food truck that a friend had for sale, and the next day, it was sitting in their driveway. But the friend told them, “If it’s sitting in the driveway, it’s not making money.”
They reached out to Kindred Kitchen for kitchen space, and hit the road. “The taco competition [in the food truck world] is fierce,” says Lozano, who wanted to do food that honors his Mexican American background, as well as Gohl’s Peruvian one. So he started thinking about tostadas, no less delicious than tacos, but with less fierce competition. He figured the possibilities would be endless, and with crunchy corn tostadas as a base, he could do just about any type of cooking: Mediterranean, Jamaican, Caribbean, and beyond.
A Full Belly, Happy Heart tostada starts with a crisp corn tostada, and then continues with layers of flavor. A crowd favorite is the Peruvian, which is layered with potato mash and imported Peruvian olives, savory chicken, avocado, and aji verde— a popular, Peruvian condiment made with herbs, chile, olive oil, and mayonnaise. Spice lovers can get a dose of Lozano’s hot sauce, which really is hot. It breaks his heart a little when diners want it on the side, but he understands the Minnesota spice palate and will happily oblige.
Other favorites include signature chorizo wontons, with melted cheese and chorizo wrapped in a deep fried wonton skin. They go great with beer from the breweries where you can often find the truck.
Their jerk tostada is laced with fragrant allspice, and Lozano’s favorite is the Chipotle, with refried beans, cilantro, cabbage, and tomatillo avocado salsa.
It reminds him of the bean and egg tacos that his aunt fed to him all those years ago.
The best part about their business, say Lozano and Gohl, is that it’s a family affair, and they can bring both of their kids, aged nine months and nine years, to hang out with them. “My daughter already knows what she wants to eat for dinner. Right now she’s waiting for her Chipotle quesadilla,” he says.
The entire menu is naturally gluten free, and can easily be prepared to accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets. Their dream is a fleet of trucks, and possibly, a breakfast cafe that incorporates Latin fusion flavors into the first meal of the day.
And, Gohl says she “absolutely” fell in love with Lozano over his cooking. Full Belly, Happy Heart. The couple say they have the Northside Food Business Incubator to thank for better understanding bookkeeping and tax laws.
About the Author:
Mecca Bos has always been envious of other writer’s clever bios. The cleverest thing she’s ever accomplished is managing to turn a love of eating, drinking, and parties into a career of sorts. It doesn't pay much, but the dividends in friendships and truffle fries are bountiful. In between bites, she writes for various national and local publications. She also works the odd shift in random professional kitchens. You can see more of her work at meccabos.com