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Jordan James Foley: Honoring America’s Veterans with a Pathway to the Culinary Arts

Jordan James Foley: Honoring America’s Veterans with a Pathway to the Culinary Arts

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Jordan James Foley, the founder and CEO of Let’s Chow. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me today, Jordan! Tell me, what challenge are you all at Let’s Chow addressing?

Jordan: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! Let’s Chow is a nonprofit designed to provide services for military veterans through cooking therapy, cookware donations, culinary education, and business advice—all provided for everyone from home chefs to aspiring food truck- or restaurant-owners. Through our range of services, we are the “go-to” for veterans and military spouses seeking to enhance their culinary talents. Whether you aim to impress guests for a dinner party or operate one of our trucks, we got you!

Spiffy: Awesome! What motivated you to tackle this issue?

Jordan: Chow’s principal motivation is to honor America’s veterans and military spouses by providing a pathway for them to learn vocational skills in the culinary arts. The transition from military to civilian life can be daunting, especially when you are confronted with a complete career change. Whether someone has no food-service experience or is a retired Culinary Specialist, we can help. Chow gives veterans the opportunity to own and operate food trucks. We bridge the gap between a veteran leaving the service and entering the culinary industry through our Food Truck Training Program (FTTP).

Spiffy: Tell us more about that program. Is it a major way your team is working towards a more equitable world?

Jordan: Certainly! The FTTP sets up select veterans with a food truck, menu, branding, supply chain support, food safety training, and much more. These veterans operate under the Chow support umbrella as we provide logistical and technical support. The goal is, once the veteran or military spouse has learned enough about the culinary industry, they are free to pursue their own business venture—perhaps even opening a restaurant of their own. Through the profits of these trucks, Chow pursues other initiatives supporting veterans and military families such as cooking therapy, cookware donations, culinary education, and online recipes.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone by Let’s Chow. What impact does that make?

Jordan: We recently surpassed half a million dollars in donations, allowing us to open up three food trucks nationally and to train over five veteran-owned businesses and dozens of veterans in the culinary arts from our food trucks.

Spiffy: Congrats on that success! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?

Jordan: In 2019, I was studying at Georgetown Law when I received devastating news: a friend and fellow Navy veteran had died by suicide while struggling with debts as he launched his startup business. After looking into it, I asked, “Why weren’t there resources available for him? Did he not have support? How can we reduce those startup fail rates?” I knew there were many nonprofits helping veterans start businesses, but I wanted to find a way to support them beyond the startup phase and into the long term. I wanted to honor my friend. That’s when I began considering my longtime passion for food as a pathway to business ownership.

Spiffy: Thank you for sharing that, Jordan. I am sure your friend would be honored by your efforts. What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?

Jordan: I have long been aware of food’s power to connect generations and cultures. I remember standing on a footstool when I was young, watching my grandmother as she cooked. I remember sharing a homemade deep-dish pizza with a Navy member I didn’t know well in a submarine thousands of feet below the sea. I remember a friend’s grandmother in China handing me a plate of dumplings and squeezing my shoulder when I felt alone during an overseas stint. And what I learned after all of this is: food is love.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Jordan—it’s been an honor!

Jordan Foley has been an officer in the U.S. Navy for ten years. While on active duty, he founded a nonprofit called Let's Chow, which helps veterans start culinary careers through food truck training. In just 2.5 years, his organization grew to achieve national stature with trucks in San Diego, Atlantic City, and Annapolis. Jordan remains on active duty in the Navy at present. Upon leaving the service, he intends to work full-time as the CEO of Let's Chow. He is planning to expand the organization into a brick-and-mortar business incubator concept. (Nominated by Alexandra McNair of Fashion FWD. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 7, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.