Gary Lokers is excited to bring people together through high quality food with the upcoming launch of his food truck: Eli's Eats in the Streets.
The food truck, named after his 4-year-old son, Eli, aims to unify Blue Water area residents with its distinct menu that includes American, Lebanese, and Mexican-influenced dishes.
"Food brings people together. It's something we all share and something we do every day," says Lokers. "If you can enjoy food together, you can relate and talk."
As a social custom people tend to bond over food, and yet increasingly busy lifestyles often prevent this from happening. Lokers wants to help solve this problem by providing residents with a gathering place to have great conversation and even better cuisine.
"It's something where you can just bring people together in a neighborhood or in a parking lot, and you can see people from all different backgrounds eat together and enjoy food," says Lokers.
The driving force behind Eli's Eats in the Streets
Much of Lokers' drive comes from the desire to spend more time with Eli, or as he affectionately calls him, "Lokerman." The two love to spend time cooking and eating together, and Lokers uses the time to teach his boy valuable life lessons.
"I teach him about nutrition and eating correctly, and also having a passion for what you do. It embodies everything," says Lokers.
Lokers' love for cooking dates back to his own early childhood, but real-world experience came in the form of a job at a local golf course as a teenager.
While he initially started off working in the dishroom, the cook soon recognized the teenager's work ethic and moved him over to work the line as a cook. This is where Lokers learned how to efficiently apply his talent in a practical setting.
Fast forward to 2012, and his idea for a food truck initially struck him when he saw a man outside of Harbor Freight cooking pizza on a brick oven. Lokers realized a food venture was something he would like to eventually do.
In 2015, he bought his trailer and began making arrangements. This included getting his paperwork in place, as well as getting the necessary testing done with the health department. He also began building networks throughout the community and getting a pulse on what people wanted and which locations might work for his truck.
Quality and originality baked into each dish
A sampling of Lokers' creations includes his own spin on American, Mexican, and Lebanese dishes--and there's more where that came from. He enjoys thinking outside of the box and putting his own twist on classic breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. He also aims to keep his prep times short--three to five minutes, in fact.
Examples include his pot roast sandwich with pineapple ginger relish on a jalapeño bun, steak tacos with homemade kiwi, lime, and cilantro salsa, and his grilled chicken wraps with mango, beer barbeque sauce, homemade salsa, beans, rice, and cilantro.
"It's all about timing, and the time is right. People want different food," says Lokers.
Giving back to the community
Lokers already has a history of utilizing his talent for food to give back to the community. Back in 2009, he gave away meals at Christmastime to families that were hurting or unemployed. He continued this for five years, and in the final year, he gave away 72 meals.
He plans to do even more giving back with the launch of his truck venture. Some of his future plans include potentially giving away food at local shelters during the holidays, and even purchasing shoes for local children who need them.
Lokers plans on launching his truck at the end of May and aims to keep his operation around St. Clair County. Potential locations include farmers markets, factories, bars, party stores and fairs. In addition, he is already receiving enquiries for graduations and private events.
"There's no reason to leave this county. You have to create opportunities. Stay in your area and do what you do. Find a need and fill it," says Lokers.
Beyond this initial truck, future plans include possibly buying another truck and serving wood-fired pizza.
"The same love I have for my son, I bring to your food," says Lokers with a grin. "You're going to have food that you've never had before. The food is going to mirror me and my heart."