Can we let you in on a little secret? One of the best food trucks in Jacksonville right now is flying under the radar and serving some seriously gourmet, hand made in nearly every way, deliciously savory and craveworthy food. We bet a lot of you haven’t even heard of it yet, so we feel it’s our responsibility and obligation to steer you in the right direction for a great meal. Fine dining meets whimsical with the mobile eats featured on A Flying Sausage, led by chef team Thomas Southard and Heather Bracy. Whether you’re craving fresh chorizo tacos, breakfast served all day with some of the most life changing grits you’ll ever have, sweet freshly baked pastries, or a flight of handmade, hand-cased sausages, you’re in luck! With a myriad of experience between Thomas and Heather, there is no stopping this dynamic duo.
Thomas began his passion for all things culinary at an early age due to big Thanksgivings with his family and lots of cooking time with his dad. He explained, “We would have like 40 people at my house with a big turkey and we were the place to be for people who didn’t have families to be with. That was my favorite holiday. I also used to watch my dad grill out at his parents house and we’d go to a lake at a campground in mid Florida every weekend and gather and eat and make Susie Homemaker cheesy dishes. It wasn’t the best food looking back, but it wasn’t about that. It was about getting together and cooking something for somebody else.” At five years old, Thomas already knew he wanted to cook. He watched the only cooking show at the time with dedication. His first professional cooking job was at a sports bar called The Draft House in Port St Lucie. Everything was made daily from scratch, which instilled in Thomas the importance of doing the unexpected and going the extra step. He did that for two years until he graduated high school, and then moved straight into the Florida Culinary Institute for culinary school. He was offered a job at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, but money at the time was tempting and he found himself back at The Draft House until he moved to Jacksonville.
Over the past 14 years, Thomas has built up an incredible fine dining resume at some of the most notable restaurants in Jacksonville. He told us, “I worked at Biscotti’s and BB’s at the same time. I had two different chefs at Biscotti’s and I learned a lot from them. Mike Gorman was never afraid to try new things which was awesome because the dish didn’t always work. There I learned it’s okay to make a dish that sucks, it’s not the end of the world. You just try again.” During his tenure at BB’s, Thomas also got to experience being the interim chef for a month to give him practice in kitchen management and the bigger picture end of running a restaurant. Following that, Thomas moved to California and worked for Michelin starred Solbar. They had a fusion of food with a split menu accommodating a health spa and regional favorites. That experience helped Thomas refine his technique as well as give him a lesson in perseverance. The chef didn’t want to hire Thomas due to his limited experience at the time, and Thomas replied with a simple “I won’t argue with you, but I guarantee I won’t fail.” Two days later he had the job. “The chef at Solbar was the greatest guy I’ve ever known. Six months after I started there he came to work the line with me. Typically when a chef comes to work the line you think it’s going to be terrible, but he was so efficient. He barely looked like he was moving and he got so much done. He was a hardass, and he put a lot on his sous chefs. He didn’t care who messed up as long as you admitted it and didn’t lie to him. I made the mistake and did it once and he didn’t talk to me for two weeks! I never did it again. That day he grabbed my food, threw it in the trash, and told me to do it again.” Thomas continued to learn under the team of Solbar for eleven months when he realized he missed home. He worked at Orsay for 2 years on returning to Jacksonville. Thomas made sausages in culinary school, but didn’t pursue it directly until his job at Solbar and subsequently at Restaurant Orsay. It was at Orsay that he began to play with making his own sausage as part of their extensive charcuterie program. “I never really made a traditional sausage because you can buy a really good traditional sausage. I want to play with it more than do what they did in Germany 100 years ago. So I’d make a sundried tomato and mozzarella sausage, something fun.” After that, Thomas became a butcher at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. Thomas explained, “I stepped into the butcher room and I was by myself and focused. My boss didn’t check on me. I put headphones in and 17 layers of clothes because I was in a cooler and I cut meat and fish all day. (Heather interjected at this point in the interview that he smelled wonderful at the end of every day) That led me to finding uses for the scraps we didn’t use. I started making lamb sausage and duck prosciutto there and found out how much I really loved it.”
Heather’s path to A Flying Sausage began at 2 years old when she started to help make her own birthday cakes. She always wanted to go to culinary school, and had a passion for pastry, particularly the organization and the meticulous details of it. She is from Ohio, and the only culinary school was in Pittsburg. Hailing from a religious family, they didn’t approve of the culinary school there because they had co-ed dorms. She did her university pre-requisites and moved to Jacksonville and began a family. However, she still dreamed of becoming a pastry chef. Her then husband’s career came to a point where one of them needed to go to school to find something more substantial. She visited the Art Institute and knew that it was meant to be. Her financial aid looked dicey, but the Art Institute pulled strings for her (which fell under the illegal lending practices they were recently closed for) and it opened up the opportunity for her to fulfill her dream. Several students were switched into Pastry as their first class due to the large enrollment and Heather flourished. Her goal was all A’s, and she easily handled that in school including getting over a 100% in Pastry. While she did go through full culinary training, she continued to focus on pastry classes and took as many as were available.
Chef CJ, her Pastry instructor, wound up being the key to Heather breaking into fine dining quickly. Heather explained, “Culinary school is a lot about who you know, not what you know. Chef CJ worked with Kenny Gilbert at the Ritz Carlton. He was walking around the school one day and she told me to go print off a copy of my resume and go tell him he needed to hire me. He was opening Nipper’s, which is actually where Thomas and I met. He was also working there when he worked at Orsay. I worked there for six months. One of my friends from culinary school was working at Roy’s and she got thrown into pastry and told the chef that he needed to hire me. Roy’s was amazing. Adam Hyatt was the chef there, he was one of the people I think I learned the most about management from. He catered his management style to what people needed. If he thought they needed a hardass he’d be that, or he could also be positive and encouraging. He made everyone want to do their best. I was at Roy’s for almost two years and had a brief stint where I went to New York and came back. I went back to Roy’s, and then I went to Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. Thomas also moved to Ponte Vedra Inn and Club where he did his butcher work. Everytime Thomas and I went out to eat we’d analyze how much it would cost to run a restaurant. We went to a Moonlight Movie and there were food trucks there, which sparked that interest. We watched the amount of people walking around, how many people were eating, what they were eating. We started looking to see what trucks we needed in Jacksonville. There were a million BBQ trucks, there were so many pizza trucks. At the time, there wasn’t a sausage truck. We put together a business plan, we met with a builder, he helped us a lot with our plan before we had even for sure decided to do it. We had an idea for breakfast in there since there weren’t really breakfast trucks, but when we first opened we didn’t do it.”
Amusingly, Heather hates (and she emphasized, HATES) raw meat, so Thomas has become the artistic and physical creator of the sausages while Heather cooks and bakes her amazing pastries for the truck. Thomas told us, “When we started the truck I didn’t want to do an Italian sausage or a bratwurst. We knew Sausage Paradise was opening soon and he has that, and he has it under control. We love Constantine and his food. So we wanted to do a chicken sausage and do chicken and waffles, people love gyros so we did a lamb sausage. We added a few traditional sausages because people do want that, but overall we want to be what people don’t expect. We like to hear ‘well I’ve never heard of that before’ and then they try it and they love it.” A Flying Sausage began as Andouille Bangers, but as Thomas said with a defeated sigh, “It was apparently not acceptable.” Heather continued, “If we didn’t have a loan and be reliant on paying that loan we would have stuck with the name.” The two of them spent time at food truck rallies in the area and ate at as many trucks as they could. They’d order their food, eat their food, then go to introduce themselves to the owners. One of the most unique things about the Jacksonville food truck scene is the comradery between the trucks. Heather and Thomas were thrilled when all the owners they spoke with encouraged them to continue their build out. Starting their food truck proved much easier than opening a restaurant with a lot less overhead. Thomas was also focused on making sure that everything that left the truck had been checked by him to ensure quality and correct preparation. The food truck allows him to do that and have less risk and more control.
A Flying Sausage quickly came to be and hit the streets to share their culinary talents with Jacksonville. The current menu for A Flying Sausage includes four sausages they make themselves. The buttermilk chicken sausage, lamb sausage, and bbq pork sausage which includes a pork rub in it, and a traditional crumbled chorizo are the regular menu items. The original plan was that the menu would change frequently, but it involves quite a bit of prep and their customers were often upset if their favorites weren’t on the menu. Breakfast was added later at the encouragement of Dennis Waugerman from Wauga Wauga and Matty Lennon from The Loving Cup. Both encouraged them that it was a viable option, but that they needed to do it full time or not at all. They jumped into offering breakfast full time and found themselves regularly at Allstate and Riverplace Towers. Equally ironic as Heather’s hatred for raw meat is Thomas’ feeling towards breakfast. He laughed and told us, “In all my years I was always a night cook. No matter what I did, I always got stuck being the brunch cook at a restaurant. At my interview for Orsay, they made me do an omelet. I screwed it up twice. I knew how to make an omelet! Still a month later I’m the brunch cook at Orsay over my entire time there. It was my least favorite thing ever. If you would have told me two years ago I’d own a business where I’m serving breakfast 5 days a week I would have punched you in the face. It’s fun when you’re set up for it though, now I love it.” Serving breakfast went from a supplement to quickly becoming their bread and butter as they mastered bountiful breakfast plates, fresh muffins and pastries from Heather, and decadent sides like their buttery over the top grits. They also make their own waffles, their own granola, their own biscuits, and use fresh cracked eggs. They offer incredible coffee that they make their own syrups for. A Flying Sausage is the definition of fresh, and they’re doing all this in a food truck every day.
In addition to serving breakfast and lunch through the food truck (as if that isn’t already a full time occupation), Heather is also running her pastry business Keepsake Cakes and Cookies through A Flying Sausage. Heather had extensive artistic experience in decorating pottery, and did this off and on throughout her time working in pastry jobs in restaurants. For awhile, it supplemented her jobs because it worked better with the hours she needed to spend time with the kids in the early mornings and afternoons. It became a passion project when she helped her sister and niece, who were extremely sick, by raising money through Cookies for a Cause. That was only the beginning for Heather’s pastry business. Her incredible artistry led to her painting keepsake plates to go along with matching decorations on cookies and cakes. You can feel her passion for this venture when she talks about it. “One the goodies are gone, you still have the hand painted plate to act as a memory of the event.” These are far from basic designs. Heather pores hours into meticulously hand painting every baked good to perfection. As A Flying Sausage continues, Heather intends to expand this area of their business into more catering opportunities.
A Flying Sausage has a lot in store as it continues to grow. They plan on adding a shrimp and bacon sausage that will be served with grits and collards, a banh mi duck sausage with pickled vegetables, and a buffalo chicken sausage. While Thomas and Heather have started sending the truck out with employees instead of working every shift, they still focus on serving breakfast themselves as they truly love the relationships they’ve built with their regulars. They’ve also blended seamlessly into the Jacksonville food truck scene. Thomas explained, “We have our food truck naysayers, the world is a coming to an end and whatnot. But we mostly have our core group of 30 trucks or so you see go out every single day. The biggest difference I’ve seen between food trucks and restaurants is that food trucks help each other. Restaurant owners don’t go hang out with other restaurant owners every day like we do. We work with everyone. We can ask each other about spots, give each other feedback. I feel like it’s family in the food truck group because we are so close when we work together.”
There is something at A Flying Sausage for everyone. Whether it be a fresh from the oven grilled blueberry muffin, a massive breakfast sandwich with perfectly seasoned breakfast sausage, a spicy and flavorful lamb gyro sausage, a handpainted cake for a special birthday, or simply a great cup of coffee, A Flying Sausage has you covered. You can find their weekly locations on their Instagram at @flyingsausage1 or on their Facebook page. They’re regulars at Allstate, the St John’s Town Center, and the Jax Food Truck Food Court and are looking for a new permanent breakfast location as well. We also encourage you to keep yourself updated on Keepsake Cakes and Cookies by following their Facebook page as well. This venture is proving all encompassing for Thomas and Heather, and the immense talent between the two of them shines through in everything they serve. Don’t mind us, we’ll be flying over to the truck now to go eat some grits and sausage.