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It took a trip to Belgium to show Bethany resident Jonathan Gibbons his true calling in life. Last week he answered the call with his new venture, a traveling fry truck called Fryborg.
After graduating from Amity High School in 1995 and attending St. Joseph's University, Gibbons was a bit of a wanderer. He lived in Colorado, Chicago and Philadelphia -- "a little bit of a nomad," in his own words.
And like many nomads of his generation, he spent time backpacking around Europe. While he was there, he discovered Belgian "frites" -- the succulent fries that make American fast-food options pale in comparison.
"I found this little frites shack -- they have them all over the place there," says Gibbons, whose mother, Estelle, teaches at Hillside School in Naugatuck. "I sat on a bench in this park and ate them. It was a 70-degree, perfect, sunny day. Everything came together. The sky opened up. And I literally had an epiphany."
That was 2003. He started dreaming about selling frites back home. And when he got back to Bethany, he put his plan into action. Last week Gibbons opened Fryborg, a traveling food truck that sells Belgian-style frites (with a variety of sauces that go far beyond ketchup) on the streets in the heart of New Haven.
"It's kind of surreal when you actually get it done," he says. But for his family -- including his mother back in Bethany -- it's no surprise. "When I was a little kid and my mom asked me what I wanted to be, I said a hot dog man," he says.
He's already had repeat customers and he says word is getting out about Fryborg. It's part word-of-mouth and part social media -- he uses Twitter to keep customers and fans updated about where to find the truck each day.
"Fries don't have to be these frozen things you pull out of a package with frostbite on them. You can get greasy, undercooked fries just about anywhere you go ... You know, everyone loves french fries, but now I hope everybody will love really good french fries."