Illinois cloud kitchen Soulcial Kitchen will see rebirth of A Fine Swine BBQ, other new concepts this summer
When A Fine Swine BBQ closed its doors in New Baden and Mount Vernon, Illinois, at the end of last year, it seemed like the end of the road for the popular and award-winning barbecue brand. According to owner David Stidham, however, his food will return in a new form: a food truck, operating out of a brand new concept. “Soulcial Kitchen is the commercial kitchen that we’re developing. The truck is ordered,” Stidham explained. “Unlike a traditional restaurant, this is going to be a cloud food service concept. In other words, we’re going to have a food truck with curbside, delivery and catering.” The cloud kitchen is expected to open this June at 2127 Lebanon Ave. in Shiloh, Illinois.
After closing A Fine Swine, Stidham went to work for Royall, who manufactures wood-pellet barbecue grills and smokers, but when he got a call from a local realtor looking to set him up with a new entrepreneur in town, he took the meeting. Soon after, he met retired Brigadier General John E. Michel, who had a plan for a new cloud kitchen concept in Illinois. “I saw his vision of having an incubator where anybody can go,” Stidham said. “If somebody wants to start a hot sauce company, they can use our facility. If they want to make salsa, they can use our facility. Unlike a lot of cloud kitchens and ghost kitchens, we have four methods of food distribution: food trucks, catering, pickup and delivery.” Before long, Stidham had partnered with Michel and became Chief Operating Officer of Soulcial Kitchen.
There, in addition to bringing back A Fine Swine, Stidham is helping develop multiple new concepts: El Guaqo Taco, NashVegas Fried and a charcoal-grilled cheeseburger truck, to start. “The goal is to create five concepts for the cloud kitchen,” he said. “And then duplicate it.” Going forward, he’d like to create a food truck garden in the style of Affton’s 9 Mile Garden on the Illinois side of the river, in St. Clair County, where they are already looking at a space.
Part of Soulcial Kitchen will involve philanthropy in the form of the Currency of Caring, which Stidham said will offer food to those in need, allowing customers to play a part in paying it forward. “[Customers] can actually buy a coin and if they see somebody who needs a break, they can hand it to them, and that person gets to go eat a meal – any of the meals at any of our trucks.”
As far as Stidham’s own passion project goes, the resurrected A Fine Swine, nobody is more surprised to see it return than him. “It was very heartbreaking – we tried everything, but we couldn’t make the numbers continue to work. I said, ‘I’m not doing it again, I’m done with this.’ You always feel one way in the present, but time heals everything, as they say.”
The new food truck will have a limited menu, but will offer some of the restaurant’s most popular items, including the championship pulled pork and signature sandwiches The Hogfather and The Beefeater. He’ll also offer pitmaster specials and sides like swine rinds (fried pork rinds), smoked pit beans and fries, as well as a Texas-style beef shoulder sandwich, which he said he’s been working on for months.
As much as any of us, Stidham’s had quite a year. But he seems to be on the upswing. “The biggest thing for me is that I get to make people happy again and I get to make myself happy again,” he said. “I was in a pretty dark place when we lost everything. But that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s what’s making me smile.”
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