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Food & Drink

Local chef is raising money to realize a life-long dream

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Shannon "Chef T" Tillman
Shannon "Chef T" Tillman

A Vicksburg man is on a mission to provide the community with inexpensive, high-quality and healthy food options from a mobile platform – but he needs your help.

35-year-old Vicksburg native Shannon Tillman says that food saved his life. Now, he wants to turn around and use his passion for great food to enrich the lives of the people around him by investing in food truck that will expand his business and allow him to reach underserved communities in Vicksburg and the surrounding area.

Tillman has worked in the restaurant industry for over 14 years in franchise eateries and working with his mother, Ellen Jean James, at her restaurant Holy Smoke Barbeque.

Chef T catfish plate

Chef T’s fried catfish plate (credit: Shannon Tillman).

In September of 2017, Tillman was offered an opportunity to attend Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, ranked the #1 culinary school in the world by Chef’s Pencil.

“I left with just $20 in my pocket.  I knew I was going down the wrong path and this was an opportunity to better myself,” Tillman said.  “They blessed me with my first three months rent, and I knew that I had to just go and figure out how to make it work.”

So that is exactly what he did.  On faith and by the seat of his pants, Tillman set out for Austin.  He found a day job to pay the bills and spent his nights taking classes, learning from the best how to prepare gourmet meals, operate a business and become a leader in foodservice.  In a couple of years, Tillman had earned his Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts.

Chef Tillman graduation

Chef Tillman shaking hands with the dean at his graduation from culinary school as his mother looks on (credit: Shannon Tillman).

“I learned so much, but the biggest lesson they taught me was not to fear failure,” Tillman said. “You never know what you can do until you try.  Maybe I’m going out on a limb trying to launch this food truck, but I’m not afraid.  It will work out or I will learn something valuable for the future, but I believe it will work out.”

Tillman was also inspired by Austin’s growing food truck culture and has resolved to launching his brand from a mobile platform. Aside from being less expensive to obtain and maintain, a food truck would allow Tillman to experiment with different menus and locations in ways that just aren’t possible for brick-and-mortar restaurants.

“A traditional restaurant is like fishing from the bank,” Tillman said. “I want a boat that I can take to where the fish are. That is what my food truck will allow me to do, reach broader segments of the community.”

To make his dream a reality, Tillman has set up a crowdsourcing campaign on GoFundMe with the goal of raising $15,000 to put down on a fully-equipped food truck.  If you’d like to support Chef Tillman, click here to visit the fundraiser page.

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Vicksburg Daily News