The concept for What The Fries
started when chef/owners Jamie Barnes and Gregory “Greg” Williams, former Johnson & Wales University classmates and roommates turned best friends and business partners, made it to the final rounds of auditions for Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” in 2014 using the name What the Fries.
Although they didn’t make it onto the show, they continued pursuing their dream of building a food truck serving gourmet-loaded fries. They launched What the Fries as a catering company in July 2014 and What the Fries food truck in a former FedEx delivery truck in August 2015. In 2021, the culinary duo opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in South Charlotte.
WHAT THE FRIES JOURNEY
March 2014 - Former Johnson & Wales University classmates Jamie Barnes, Greg Williams, and Brandon Green apply for Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” with the name What The Fries and the theme “not your average toppings” on French fries. They make it to the final rounds of auditions but learn weeks later that they did not make the final cut to be on the show.
July 2014 - ith investment from his grandfather, Barnes obtains a business license and starts What The Fries as a catering company. Williams joins Barnes' business venture and together they save money and search for a delivery truck to remodel into a food truck.
May 2015 - Barnes and Williams find a former FedEx delivery truck for sale for $3,000. Williams’ father, Gregory Williams, Sr., helps with the maintenance of the truck, and Biz on Wheels helps retrofit the truck into a mobile kitchen.
July 2015 - Barnes and Williams do a truckless pop-up event at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. to test out menu items. After 2.5 months, the remodel of the truck is complete and Kranken Signs wraps the truck.
August 2015 - The duo has the food truck inspected, obtains insurance, and gets a mobile food unit permit. It’s ready to get on the road! The first booking is at The Unknown Brewing Co. on Aug. 28, 2015.
June 2016 - What The Fries enters the Carolina Food Truck Chow Down contest and wins “Best Customer Service,” “Most Creative Menu” and “People’s Choice.”
Fall 2016 - Barnes and Williams join forces with James Beard-nominated chef Greg Collier, personal chef Michael Bowling, and pastry chef Jamie Suddoth to launch Soul Food Sessions, a nonprofit pop-up dining series that celebrates African Americans in the food and beverage industry and raises money for scholarships to help minority culinary students.
September 2016 - What The Fries food truck makes $116,000 in its first full year in business.
2017 - What The Fries wins the “People’s Choice” award in the Charlotte Food Fight food truck competition.
June 2018 - What The Fries is awarded 2nd place in North Carolina’s Food Truck State Championship.
June - October 2018 - Barnes and Williams join the Soul Food Sessions group for The Table is Set: A Four-City Tour Served with a Coke, a partnership with Coca-Cola Consolidated that takes the group to Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Charleston.
August 2018 - What The Fries food truck is featured on season 2, episode 1 of The Cooking Channel’s “Southern and Hungry” titled “The Dish on Charlotte,” bringing on a new flock of followers and supporters.
September 2018 - Annual sales for What The Fries food truck grow to $161,000.
December 2018 - What The Fries makes No. 25 on Yelp’s Top 100.
Sept. 13, 2019 - Barnes and Williams join the Soul Food Sessions crew to cook at the James Beard House, a top accomplishment for the chefs.
September 2019 - Annual sales for What The Fries food truck grow to $213,000.
November 2019 - Both chefs are featured in the cookbook “Toques in Black: A Celebration of Black Chefs.”
March-May 2020 - What The Fries adjusts their food truck business operations due to COVID-19, including condensing their menu, adding online ordering via Toast, and identifying new locations, while maintaining a strong schedule and drawing loyal customers and new business in the Charlotte region.
June 2020 - As a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Charlotte community embraces black businesses, What The Fries announces it is booked solid through October.
July 2020 - What The Fries launches gift cards. What The Fries appears on an episode of the digital series “Made Here” on South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV).
August 2020 - After being approved for a loan by the Small Business Administration (SBA) earlier in the year, the chefs work with The Chambers Group to find a location for a brick-and-mortar store.
March 2021 - The first What The Fries brick-and-mortar restaurant opens in South Charlotte. The food truck takes a hiatus as the new restaurant is launched.