Clara Valentino of Johnstown quit her corporate marketing career to pursue her culinary dream by teaming up with her father to open up a food truck called Buster Mac’s.
Working together is nothing new for this father and daughter duo.
Clara worked in his catering business for more than 10 years, sometimes standing on a milk crate just to reach the counter.
“We work good together,” said her father, Rocco Valentino. “I’m the creative brain behind the food and she talks to people and does the sales and marketing.”
Rocco Valentino, has been in the culinary industry for more than 40 years. He grew up in Reynoldsburg, studied at the culinary school in Hyde Park in New York City, worked at the Granville Inn and most recently was the chef at Pastaria at North Market in Columbus.
While Clara Valentino was at home with her newly born son, Leo, and 7-year-old daughter, Ellen, she called her father with the idea of operating a food truck.
“For about 10 years, we’d always talked about opening a restaurant, but the moment was never right,” Clara Valentino said.
“Now, things are oddly falling into place. Our business plan was approved, we got the loan with no problem and everyone has been so supportive of us.”
Within a week of that initial phone call, Rocco Valentino was on board and bringing her different menu ideas. Clara Valentino left her career in marketing at Thirty One Gifts to focus on the food truck.
“It was scary at first, but it’s one of those things where you don’t know until you try,” she said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll be OK. No other food truck is doing what we’re doing right now.”
The father and daughter duo invited 50 of their closest family and friends to a tasting survey where guests tried Buster Mac’s food and filled out a six-page survey, commenting on taste, presentation and value.
“Everyone loved the food and gave us really positive feedback,” Clara Valentino said.
“We didn’t have to make a lot of modifications to the menu,” she said. “It was fun to watch my dad be creative and make his own menu.”
The truck was bought in Indiana and actually used to be a restaurant supply truck.
A friend of Clara Valentino helped her with the exterior graphic design and a builder in Galloway, Ohio installed the kitchen equipment.
The truck was ready to go Oct. 5, just in time for their first event Oct. 9 at the Food Fort in downtown Columbus.
The name “Buster Mac’s” comes from a silly song Rocco Valentino used to sing to Clara when she was little.
“We were brainstorming names for the truck, like thinking of old streets we’d lived on, when I sang that little jingle and he was like ‘Shut up, that’s so perfect,’ ” Clara Valentino said.
The Valentinos are working hard to locally source all their ingredients. They get all their meats from A’mays’ing Meats in Johnstown. The meat has no hormones, no antibiotics and Rocco Valentino hand-patties all the burgers. Their cheeses come from Troyer Cheese in Millersburg, Ohio.
The Valentinos said the food truck community has welcomed them with open arms and they have even been asked to join the Central Ohio Food Truck Association.
“I was starstruck when they asked us,” Clara Valentino said. “I’m so amazed at how much input everyone has given us and how willing people are to help.”
So far, the Valentinos are booked through November and hope to participate in the Columbus Food Truck Festival next year and cater weddings in the future.
You can catch the Buster Mac’s food truck from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at Thirty One Gifts, 3425 Morse Crossing, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Innovate New Albany, 8000 Walton Parkway.
To see Buster Mac’s full menu and where they will be, go to bustermacs.com; or call 614-585-3169.