August 25, 2020 @ 9:24 by Richard Dawson
A chef who was left out of work when the coronavirus pandemic struck has launched a new business, Deja Food Truck.
Chef James Tulley, 41, was unable to be furloughed after starting a new job just as the lockdown came into force so decided to tuck into his savings and start a food struck business bringing restaurant quality food direct to people’s doorsteps.
The chef-turned-entrepreneur was supported in his ambition by Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Welcome Back Fund, which was launched earlier this year to provide advice, grants and loans to help businesses such as James’.
It is a £35 million programme to create jobs and grow local businesses, including a £20 million investment fund.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It was fantastic to meet James and sample some of his amazing food. I’m delighted that Tees Valley Business and the Welcome Back Fund are providing the precise help that businesses like his need to thrive and grow in our region.
“James really represents many of the things people admire in Teesside’s entrepreneurs – being hard working, resourceful and ready to step up to the challenge.
“Independent businesses like Deja Food Truck will play such an important role in our area’s recovery following coronavirus. I’m behind them all the way.”
Each week, Deja Food Truck sees James serve up food from a different part of the world – drawing on his experience working overseas in a variety of restaurants and closer to home at the Michelin-starred Black Swan in Oldstead.
James said: “When coronavirus happened, I realised very quickly that I needed to use my skills to do something else and protect my income in order to look after my family.
“Deja Food Truck was born out of that need. I realised there was a gap in the local market for high-quality, fresh cooking – the type of stuff I love to eat as a chef but also what I know my friends and family enjoy.
“Mental health, food and fitness are incredibly important for me, so I knew I wanted to pursue that passion by offering fresh, interesting and high-quality food to local people.
“We’ve already had rave reviews for a broad range of meals inspired by Portuguese, Italian and South American tastes, among many others.”
Zara Ford, growth consultant at Tees Valley Business, added: “James’ story is really inspiring – he didn’t let a worrying situation get him down and instead put his entrepreneurial determination to use, quite literally road testing a business idea using his own skills and finance.
“The Deja Food Truck has proven itself to be a success and now it’s time to strengthen the business, equipping it with the means to grow and flourish.”