Silver Spring resident Linda Jo Kushner has always loved to cook.
Now in her 50s — after more than 20 years working as an interior designer — she is following her dream and taking her down-home cooking to the streets of Montgomery County.
Linda’s Luncheonette, a brightly colored food truck that travels to different parts of the county every day, serves up a few of Kushner’s favorite recipes.
“We came right back to comfort food because that’s how I cook,” Kushner said, noting that she doesn’t deviate from being herself. “I cook every day what I cook for the family and enjoy it.”
Her daughter, Sara Kushner — a junior studying hospitality management at Ohio State University — has helped out on the truck five to 10 times. She said she is glad her mom has pursued this new venture, though she wasn’t too surprised.
“She’s been saying she is going to make a cookbook for my entire life,” Sara Kushner said. “I know she’s good at cooking because I’ve been eating her food for 20 years now.”
Linda’s Luncheonette serves up a baked five-cheese macaroni and cheese, a turkey meatloaf, a chopped salad certified as diabetic friendly and a trio of egg salad, chicken salad and tuna salad sliders. For dessert: chocolate chunk brownies.
Linda’s Luncheonette took off after 85 backers donated $20,265 between Jan. 9 and Feb. 6 through Kickstarter, an online fundraising website, surpassing her $20,000 goal. Through Kickstarter, Kushner could give gifts based on the amounts donors pledged.
For pledges ranging from $10 to more than $2,500, backers received free lunches, Linda’s Luncheonette window decals, T-shirts, mugs and lunchboxes, a Linda’s Luncheonette office party or a private party.
One gift from the fundraising campaign was an invitation to the Linda’s Luncheonette opening party, which Kushner said was attended by about 70 people. Attendees could tour the truck and try the food before the truck hit the road.
“A lot of people see food trucks, but it’s still new and novel for a lot of people, especially out in the suburbs,” Kushner said.
Kushner said she got her hands on a retired FedEx truck, which she brought to East Coast Custom Coaches in Manassas, Va., to have built up. The truck is equipped with a full gas range oven, prep tables for salads and subs, and a warming area for the food.
So far, Kushner said, she has been requested for neighborhood parties, horse shows and pool functions, in addition to visiting industrial parks and other office spots in the county that lack food options for lunch.
Last week, Kushner was joined on the truck by her sister-in-law, Sheri Rothstein of Potomac.
“It’s a dream of hers. She was just so motivated and excited, and it spilled over in everything she did,” Rothstein said. “I think it’s great. Linda’s Luncheonette is going to be a great success.”
After about a month of business, Kushner said the people pleaser in her is most excited about customers coming back for more. She is ready to make some changes to the menu.
While thinking about starting the new business venture, Kushner said, she took to the streets. She said the food truck community was “warm and welcoming” — people handed her a business card, should she ever need help or advice.
“We all do better if we all help each other,” Kushner said. “... There’s enough to go around for all of us.”
The food truck has allowed Kushner to draw on some of the creativity she channeled as an interior designer. Though there was a “learning curve” in her first couple weeks, Kushner said she has fun at the truck window interacting with patrons.
This business venture is just another chapter in the experience of life beginning again at 50 years old, she said.
“When I started this business, I picked something that I think would be fun and make me happy at the same time,” Kushner said. “That’s important to me: to not lose sight of the basics.”