Six Questions for The Joy Bus Head Chef Josh Hebert

Marilyn HawkesNovember 1, 2021
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The Joy Bus, a Valley nonprofit devoted to making and delivering chef-inspired meals to homebound cancer patients, recently welcomed celebrated Valley culinarian Josh Hebert as head chef. Hebert, who closed his popular ramen shop Hot Noodles, Cold Sake in March, and once owned Posh Improvisational Cuisine, was ready for a change. Now, he’s helming the kitchen at The Joy Bus Diner and implementing menus for the “More Than a Meal” program, working alongside Joy Bus founder Jennifer Caraway. Here’s what Hebert has to say about his latest move.

Is joining The Joy Bus a turning point in your career?
The best way to say it was that I spent a good four or five months not really doing much, just figuring out what my next move was. I interviewed for some jobs, had coffee meetings with people and everything seemed like something I had done before, which was fine, but this seemed kind of exciting, living the life of a do-gooder and giving back a little bit. Considering both my parents were cancer patients at some point, it just felt right.

Will you alter The Joy Bus Diner menu?
We’re making a few additions, signature Josh things like there’s some foie gras on the menu now. I made a little homemade scrapple for scrapple and eggs. The diner menu is going to stay the same. There might be a few specials and a few minor changes here and there to reflect some of my cooking style, but for the most part it will stay similar.

Any changes to the “More Than a Meal” cancer patient program?
I’m still getting my feet wet. I’ve been doing the patient meals for four weeks now, testing and seeing what people are in the mood for [and looking at] packaging, what keeps things hot and what doesn’t, what’s healthy. So I play around with it every week and work with Jen to get her feedback and she works with the patients to get their feedback. We’re still trying to figure out what that’s going to look like, but as we go forward another six or seven months, there’s a big game plan to expand that program. It’s more about planting roots to help that program expand rapidly and without hitches.

Is cooking in larger quantities a switch from your last two gigs?
Yeah, it’s a different ball game. The good thing is I know the math behind it and you’ve gotta trust the math. I’m enjoying it so far.

The Joy Bus organization seems like a natural way to build community through food. How are you and Jennifer accomplishing that?
They already have it set up very neighborhood [friendly]. There’s a ton of regulars and people pop in and out all the time to say hello. It almost feels more like a barber shop than it does a restaurant and it’s one of the things I kind of like about it. They’ve set a really good precedent and I’m just going to keep it moving in the same direction.

What else would you like people to know about The Joy Bus?
We’re there to support a charity and the money that we make at the diner goes toward more cancer patient meals. So come in, spend some money, hang out, tip well. You’re not just getting breakfast, you’re donating money in a really good way, so keep coming by. Keep enjoying the food, order more, eat more and we’ll keep feeding people.

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