Tanesha Trippett: “I always loved to cook and get people together around food.”
If you watch Shark Tank, which is on CNBC almost every night of the week, you know that the mega-rich entrepreneur investors love people who had the guts to give up a secure, well-paying but unfulfilling job to walk out on a high wire and follow their ultra-risky dream of starting their own business. Therefore, I am sure the “Sharks” would love Tanesha Trippett.
A West Oak Lane native who went to Martin Luther King High School, Trippett worked for financial services companies for 15 years, 10 for NCO Financial Systems and then for GMAC in Fort Washington. She worked in overdue loan collections, loan counseling and administrative work, but her real love was food, not finances. She also wanted to be her own boss, and not take orders from others.
“I always loved to cook and get people together around food,” she said last week. “My family never went out to eat. There was no need to. There were so many good cooks at home.”
Her uncle was a fisherman and her grandfather a butcher. Her grandmother, great-aunt and uncles were all great cooks.
“My family members were born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, where they always had great, fresh seafood.” she said. “So I grew up experiencing authentic Southern 'comfort foods,' from deep-frying outdoors to steaming fresh seafood, as well as smoky, grilled foods.”
In 2011, Tanesha cut bait with the world of finance and went to culinary school at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, earning a degree in culinary science in 2014 (“a very good school”), followed by courses in running a small business at Penn's elite Wharton School.
While in culinary school, Trippett worked for Aramark Food Services at the Wells Fargo Center. After her schooling, Trippett became a catering chef at Drexel University and then started her own company, Jacobs Catering, in 2016.
She began bringing pulled pork, brisket and crab cake sandwiches to Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in East Mt. Airy. People there obviously liked them because they started hiring her for small catering jobs. This led to her to purchase a food truck in 2017, which has had a permanent home in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum ever since.
Business at the food truck was in high gear, which enabled Trippett to open Brotherly Grub Cafe, right next to the Sedgwick Theater on Germantown Avenue in January of 2020. Two months later, however, the pandemic hit - threatening her neophyte business.
“But Mt. Airy has been so good to me,” said Trippett. “Catherine Coleman, a neighbor, was so concerned about my business that she started a movement of people in the neighborhood to buy meals from me and deliver them free of charge to front-line workers at area hospitals, including Chestnut Hill, Einstein, University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr, Abington and Temple.
“It was a win-win,” she continued. “I kept the business going, and the hospital workers got free meals. There were a lot of hurdles to overcome, but I was able to stay open.”
Trippett opened for indoor dining in the spring of 2021. Last summer, in addition to her food truck at the Art Museum, she was subcontracted by Consolation Catering, owned by restaurant entrepreneur Stephen Starr, to run his food truck at the Philadelphia Zoo. She has also done lots of private dining in the 30 outdoor seats in back of the cafe, and is leasing space a few doors down the block at 7165 Germantown Ave., former home of North by Northwest and two short-lived restaurants. There, she can seat 50 more customers outdoors.
Trippett is helped by her children, Isaiah, 23, and Brianna, 22, who both went to Jenks School in Chestnut Hill.
“And we will be doing special events for Valentine's Day and the Super Bowl,” she said. “My executive chef, Ricardo Rodriguez, who used to be my boss at the Wells Fargo Center, also makes vegan tacos and other Spanish dishes. And I do 60 lunches once a week at Children's Hospital.”
The popular restaurant website Yelp is filled with five-star reviews of Brotherly Grub Cafe. Typical was this one by Jeff E. on Dec. 2, 2021: “Everything was delicious and fresh ... Great ambience, great service and an amazing meal. Well seasoned and a great combination of flavors. Do yourself a favor and check this place out!”
More information at 267-320-2675 or brotherlygrub.biz. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com