Photos Andy Calvert
As you travel the roads of Rome, Ga., you may smell a smell that beckons you to pull over.
That is exactly what Lou-Cora’s Food Truck owner Okista Morgan Tory wants you to do.
“My grandmother, Cora Morgan, was a cook,” says Okista. “She cooked all the time. Whenever we went to her house, she was cooking. As a child, I always said I wanted to do the same thing. The smell of her food put a smile on the face of every person who was near her house. I always wanted to have that effect on people in the same way, or at least take up the challenge of trying to live up to her skill around the kitchen.”
Okista’s husband, Grady Tory, also came from a family that knew how to rattle the pots and pans, and served up some of the most delectable dishes he can remember. Recipes used on the Lou-Cora’s Truck are fourth-generation recipes passed on to Grady from his family and his grandmother, Louise.
Lou-Cora’s Food Truck was born from the influence of family, and the love they shared with others around the dinner table.
With cooking and seeing the smiles on people’s faces who enjoy good food ingrained in the both of them, the culinary-inspired couple decided to show appreciation to those who paved the way and name their modern-day chuck wagon Lou-Cora’s.
To keep the food as close to kitchens they remembered from the past, everyone who works on the food truck is in some way affiliated with their grandmothers, Louise or Cora.
Cook, daughter of Cora Morgan and family auntie, Elaine Richardson, speaks about the family working together. “It feels great to be a part of a family business, and to also be memorializing the grandmothers as well.”
Another family member, Brenda Morgan, who is Okista’s mother and a daughter of Cora, passed on before the comeback of Lou Cora’s. Brenda also cooked for her family and was very instrumental in the growth of the Lou-Cora’s brand.
“This isn’t our first go ‘round,” says Okista. “We started as a restaurant 11 years ago. My mother (Brenda) worked with us for 18 months for free to help us get it all going. She cared as much about me achieving my dream as I did. As time passed, we decided to cut the overhead of the restaurant and start a food truck. We started with a smaller food truck to test the waters, but unfortunately mother nature and gravity took us out with a tree falling on the truck. We were down for a few years, but now we are back.”
Being back means a second attempt at trying to achieve what Grandma Cora did with ease, make people happy and full. “For me, it seemed everyone came by just to eat. People would sit there all day long to eat, and then get hungry again and eat again, and then leave full and happy. Watching her work in the kitchen 24-7 was the inspiration we used to take the tradition of cooking from the kitchen, to a restaurant, and now to our food truck,” Okista explains. “She was great in the kitchen, and I’m nowhere near as talented of a chef as she was, but it is a wonderful feeling to carry it on.”
When you’re dealing in family recipes, you cannot half-step. “This is not ‘poured out of the can food,’” Okista says. “We really put a lot of hard work into our food.”
With side dishes like creamy macaroni and cheese, sweet and savory baked beans, slow-cooked collard greens, Southern-style potato salad, and loaded potatoes, it has to be crafted from the mind of a grandmother, because everyone knows the calling cards of homemade cuisine and surefire ways to tell if the food is from the box. “Everything is prepped, cooked and served with the love of feeding your family at home,” Okista says.
“It gets stressful at times. I mean, we are working with family,” says Okista with a laugh, “but it is great having a family business.”
Stop by when you smell that smell, make sure you ask for a rib plate with macaroni and cheese and baked beans, pulled pork with fries and fried pickles, or a fish sandwich.
The choices are endless, but the food is always straight from grandma’s book of feel-good food.
To keep up with where Lou-Cora’s Food Truck will be serving in the future, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pitmaster1234/