Going ‘Off the Rails’ to serve the community

Hospitality Student Brad Rhegness next to his family's Off the Rails food truck
Hospitality Student Brad Rhegness next to his family's Off the Rails food truck

Many say food brings people together. For hospitality management Terra State student Brad Rhegness, this saying means even more. Rhegness came to Terra State on the Workforce Demand Scholarship after studying under his father Jim, a Culinary Arts Instructor at Penta Career Center.

“My passion for cooking came from my Dad. I have always been around food since a young age and have always enjoyed cooking and trying new food,” said Rhegness.

That passion has taken Rhegness from working at Ciao! in Sylvania, Ohio as a prep and grill cook, to a new adventure with his father – a food truck called Off the Rails. “We have always talked about getting one and how much fun it would be, as well as what we would serve,” he said.

The Off the Rails food truck is a trolley Rhegness and his dad opened in March of 2019 after purchasing and rebuilding it. “My father and I both own the trolley 50-50. It is definitely a joint effort between the both of us. We learn from each other and work well as a team,” Rhegness said.

The menu has been kept simple to focus on great ingredients--many of which are sourced locally from places like Frobose Meat Locker in Pemberville, Ohio. While you can find mouth-watering burgers, fried lake-perch sandwiches and vegetarian options on their menu, their main attraction is variations of the quintessential Canadian dish, Poutine, consisting of French fries, cheese curds and gravy.

“The idea to serve Poutine came from two summers ago while I was in Utah for an Internship,” said Rhegness. “The main chef ran a Poutine stand every Sunday at a farmer's market. It was a hit from the time we opened until the time we closed. I was trying to think of any restaurant or food truck that serves Poutine back home and, sure enough, there wasn’t.”

Recently, Off the Rails has been working with the Toledo Buffalo Soldiers, a Toledo area non-profit organization, and the Lucas County Metropolitan Housing Authority on an operation called With Unity Feeding Our Community. Together, they are serving free meals to the community using funds raised through sponsors and supporters of the Buffalo Soldiers.

“Because of this coronavirus and everyone across the country being affected by it, we have a lot of folks that have lost their jobs,” said Earl Mack Jr., President of the Toledo Buffalo Soldiers. With people being out of work and children home from school, Off the Rails and the Toledo Buffalo Soldiers wanted to provide an option to feed both the kids and parents who need it.

“Both Brad and his father have such big hearts for what they are doing,” said Mack.

Off the Rails can be found every Friday at Earnest Brew Works in Maumee, Ohio through the end of the year, with the possibility of adding more locations in the future. They can also be found on Facebook under Off the Rails.

After graduation, Rhegness plans on expanding the food truck business and possibly opening a restaurant. While he enjoys cooking and surprising others with his food, the compliments customers give him are what keep him going. “It means a lot when they return solely for what we serve,” he said.