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February 25, 2013 at 1:26 PM
Former concierge finds food truck success-on-a-stick
In his years as a concierge for Seattle’s high-end hotels, Jesse Lee directed plenty of customers to the city’s best bets for food.
Now, working with fiance Sheena Fuson, he’s got a place particularly close to his heart: The food truck he and Fuson started up together, debuting Valentine’s Day after two years of planning, experimenting, and recipe-testing. My Sweet Little Cakes, a “’50s themed mobile food diner,” specializes in hotcakes made to order — stuffed with sweet or savory ingredients, and served on a stick.
Despite the delivery system, don’t look here for novelty fair food.
“We wanted to cater to the breakfast folks who can’t find any good healthy breakfasts,” Sheena said — though in the end they’ve also developed plenty of dessert and entree options too, from red velvet buttermilk hotcakes to chicken and waffle with maple butter. (There are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options on the current menu.)
The plan began when Jesse met Sheena, who had always had a passion for cooking. ”My Puerto-Rican side — my aunt, mom, and grandma, they’re all women of the kitchen, that’s where they reside,” Sheena said.
Jesse, whose concierge experience includes the Four Seasons and W Hotel, is Seattle to the core — his parents met at Third and Pike, he was born at Virginia Mason hospital, and he’s lived in or near downtown pretty much his whole life.
“I have such a love of this city and the people, and when I tasted some of Sheena’s food, I said ‘My gosh, this is too good not to share,” he said.
He thought food on a stick was a natural (it was actually featured in one episode of this season’s Top Chef Seattle) — but he couldn’t find anywhere it had taken off beyond deep-fried gimmicks. He used his connections — “Jesse knows every person on the block,” Sheena said — and what he’d learned about quality brands to develop a business of their own. The people they paired with and their mentors (they particularly credit former Microsoft engineer Patricia Walsh and chef Nami Soto, formerly of Andaluca) helped bring them from the original concept to their Valentine’s Day opening, even after a major setback when their first trailer was wrecked a day before arriving in Seattle.
So far, Jesse doesn’t miss being on the other side of the counter.
“I love working with people. Customer service is really my thing,” Jesse said. “I really love working in that proximity with Sheena, she’s just fun to work with.”
He told her, “I thought, if we can do this and make a model of it, maybe we could expand it, and I could work side by side with you forever.”
The retro-orange truck currently operates at 1208 Pine St. Watch here for schedule updates.
Photo of Jesse and Sheena courtesy of My Sweet Little Cakes