My visit to the Sherman Park neighborhood on Memorial Day was a memorable one. I finally got an interview with Chef Tizzy Tazz, who I had been trying to track down for a couple of years. During the course of our hour-long chat outside his food truck, at least six cars honked and someone inside waved, or kids on bikes zoomed by and shouted. “Hey, how’s it going!” Tizzy would say. He would look back at me with a smile. “See? They all know me around here. The kids especially.”
The north side of Milwaukee during the summer is a very special place, particularly this area. Giant elm trees tower above the incredible architecture of the homes, their lush green leaves swaying and brushing in the wind. People are out everywhere and taking part in summer: lighting fireworks, grilling out, walking around. Kids are shouting at each other up and down the blocks, enjoying corner-store juices and chips. The north side has a vibrancy that is unmatched.
Gotcha Foods is the name of Chef Tizzy Tazz’ business, a truck that operates outside of his house on 40th and Hadley. Tizzy is self-taught, but he’s learned a lot of his cooking skills from his mother as well. He is only 23 years old and has had the truck for a little over three years. His father, Ree, owns the truck and is in partnership with the owner of EVE nightclub (6222 W. Fond du Lac Ave.) EVE is where Gotcha Foods actually operates out of when the truck is closed. There, Tizzy has the advantage of a full kitchen, but it is in his truck where he really comes to life, creating the food he feels is fun and is something the whole block can enjoy.
“I want it to feel like a block party when I open up, you know?” he says. “This whole thing is run by me, and I do absolutely everything, no helpers. Trust me, If I open up right now, I will be working nonstop until I close.”
The truck is impeccably clean inside, and has a flat top, deep fryer, counter, and cooling setup. “I drop grease every day that I open and clean it out at the end of the night,” Tizzy says. “This is my pride and joy, something I did for the neighborhood.”
He continues: “Between Burleigh, Hadley, and Sherman, there is nothing fun for us over here on this side of town. All of the fun activity and community centers we had have been closed down. I don’t mean like the Boys & Girls Club, but where are our roller rinks and bowling alleys and food trucks? That is what Gotcha Foods is. It’s a place for the people on the block to come and hang out.”
There is truth to Tizzy’s words, as parks on the north side are not properly funded, and fun places for young people are few and far between, outside of Mayfair Mall. “I opened my truck here specifically because I am not afraid of people that look, talk, and dress like me. This area gives me life,” Tizzy says.
Indeed, the area where the food truck is located is an unconventional one—a residential city block—but that makes it all the more attractive and unique. The food served is tried-and-true fare like Philly cheese steaks, burgers, and sandwiches, plus concoctions of Tizzy’s own, like reuben quesadillas.
Tizzy’s brother Chucky passed away a year ago, and it has weighed on Tizzy heavily. “We used to sleep in that car right there together. He went everywhere with me and I was teaching him everything I knew,” he remembers.
Although it has been a rough couple of years for Tizzy, he soldiers on with a dogged determination. “One day I am going to open my own roller rink for kids during the day and adults at night. I am going to cook and we will have something for the kids in our community. The only jobs for kids around here are McDonald’s, and abandoned properties are just left to go bad. The city has proven they don’t care about people like us, so I am going to take it upon myself to bring life and joy to my neighborhood.”
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