My Chef to Go: Mobile Dining at it’s Best

My Chef To Go

My Chef To Go

Staff Writer Tri-Valley Central

After having spent the past 25 years serving as a chef and food-and-beverage director for restaurants and catering services, in venues from San Diego to Phoenix, Casa Grande resident Shawn Johansen felt it was time to take on a new challenge. Of course, with all of her experience and expertise in creating gourmet dishes for other people, it seemed inevitable to her friends and family that she would end up opening her own restaurant in Casa Grande.

But being a practical sort, she took a long, hard look at the current economic climate as well as the dismal forecasts for recovery and the huge startup costs in the restaurant industry today, and all those negatives had her momentarily discouraged, until she began reminiscing about her experiences on the West Coast.

“I remember marveling at the mobile food truck industry in Southern California,” Johansen said. “It was different from what we have in Arizona and the rest of the country, where these food trucks pull into the parking lot of a large factory, roll up one side of the trailer and display a bunch of pre-made sandwiches, salads, side dishes and beverages.

Lines building outside the My Chef To Go Truck/Trailer

“On the other hand, the mobile food trucks in the San Diego area were, for all intents and purposes, restaurants on wheels. Instead of displaying shrink-wrapped food products that were produced some six-to-eight hours earlier, they had people come up to the window, select an item from the menu, and then a chef would cook it to order right then and there and serve it hot to the customer.”

According to Johansen, her mobile food truck, which she’s dubbed “My Chef to Go,” will be parking at selected venues Monday through Friday beginning at 6 a.m. for the breakfast crowd and running up to 3 p.m. for the late-lunch, early-dinner folks.

On Mondays her crew, consisting of herself, her husband Mike and fellow chef Dolores Perkins, will be setting up near the fairgrounds at Eleven Mile Corner Road and Arizona 287. On Tuesdays they’ll be at the old Tate Ford location in Coolidge at Arizona Boulevard and Pinkley Avenue. Every Wednesday and Friday, they’ll be in Casa Grande at the old Co-op building on the northwest corner of Florence Boulevard and Peart Road and on Thursdays, they’ll be at Heritage Park in Florence.

“There will be times when we might be off somewhere else on a catering assignment, where a company might want us to serve lunch or breakfast to their employees,” said Johansen. “Word is already getting around about us, and we’ve been receiving calls for catering dates.

“We prepare everything on site, breakfasts and lunch, right here in our kitchen. We do a service order right from the window. They tell us what they want, and our menu is unique. We’ve got an international menu, and you’ll see our breakfasts are different. For example, we have a Big Easy egg sandwich, which is two fried eggs on grilled Brioche with Andouille sausage and provolone cheese. All the breakfasts are served with my home-style potatoes and fresh fruit.”

Daily special entrees include Indian spinach and chickpea fritters on Monday; grilled chipotle chicken sates on Tuesday; Indian beef kabobs on Wednesday; panko crusted pork with plum sauce on Thursday; and tilapia fish tacos on Fridays.

Anyone who’s a salad buff will love the grilled steak Caesar, Greek goddess shrimp, Moroccan lentil or Oriental chicken salads, the latter of which is grilled chicken blended with water chestnuts, green onions, chow mein noodles and Mandarin oranges tossed in a ginger-sesame dressing.

All of Johansen’s meals are packaged to go, as she won’t have any accommodations for eating food right there on site, which was a calculation that would allow her to place the emphasis on the quality of her food and speed of service rather than having to divide time waiting on tables and cleaning up.

To that end, all the meals are packaged with utensils, napkins, salt and pepper and condiments.

My Chef to Go is a fully operational mobile, self-contained kitchen, a 20-foot trailer powered by a 40-gallon high-powered generator for the electrical appliances, such as a full refrigerator and commercial freezer and a mini salad bar for garnishing sandwiches, and propane for some of the cooking appliances. And to comply with the county health department, there’s a three-compartment sink, plus a hand washing station.

All the food is made from scratch, including fresh brewed coffee, cappuccinos and mochas, flavored teas and a range of salads and sandwiches.

“This is a real gourmet restaurant kitchen,” Johansen said. “We have all the appliances and implements here that we would have included had we built a kitchen in a building. We have ovens, stoves, grills, microwaves… we bake our own cookies, muffins, brownies and our own bread — sourdough, white, whole wheat and marble rye, Parisian and Cibatta.

For information call 450-2250 or go to the website at