Roman Hillery Sawyer is the epitome of a person with the right idea at the right time. Sawyer came home to Rome almost a decade ago and brought her love of grilled cheese back to town with her.
After finishing high school, Sawyer decided she wanted to get away from small town Georgia. “I didn’t really feel like I belonged here,” Sawyer said. So she headed to Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, for college. She also lived for a while in Kingston, Ontario. “By the time I was 25, I was pretty much ready to come home.”
Food trucks were just beginning to become trendy across the country; however, there weren’t many in Rome in 2014, so Sawyer and a couple of her friends saw a void, and voila, Speakcheesy was born. But before she ever got the first food truck, her partners found other opportunities, so Sawyer was forced to go it alone.
Fortunately, about a year into the business, Sawyer rekindled a childhood friendship with Ben Mitchell, who has become her husband.
The early days were a struggle for Sawyer, who would typically plow the proceeds from today’s sales into tomorrow’s inventory. As any good food service industry executive understands, inventory control and ensuring you’ve got enough without too much is one of the biggest challenges. Her husband has been a huge help in that regard. “Our motto has always been ‘Be Over Prepared,’” Sawyer said. They use a process called “Sous Vide” to season, flavor, cook, and blend her cheeses, weigh them out to perfect portions, zip-lock bag them, and then roll them so that they don’t take up a lot of space. The process also helped speed up the process of preparing sandwiches on location.
Fast forward a decade, and you can find Hillery and Speakcheesy at most major events around Rome. It’s not at all unusual to see the Speakcheesy truck outside the Cosmic Dog Outpost or River Remedy late at night on weekends when most of the restaurant kitchens in town have shut down for the evening.
Last month, Hillery spent a long weekend at the Imagine Festival at Kingston Downs, where Speakcheesy was crazy busy. Her husband said they pre-prepared nearly 900 pounds of cheese for the Imagine Festival. She also does several festivals in the area, including Chiaha Harvest Fair in Rome.
While Sawyer is constantly on the go, she has said that consistency in the location of her food truck was a major part of her early success. “Even though we’re in the mobile food truck business and can change our location, our customers expect that consistency from us to make sure our customers have a place to come back to,” Sawyer said.
Her best-selling sandwich is the Buffalo Gal. “ I’ve sold over 50,000 of the Buffalo Gal since we started in 2014,” Sawyer said. “it’s a Buffalo chicken grilled cheese. It’s mild. We don’t make it too spicy. It’s a blend of real chicken breasts, our homemade Buffalo sauce, sharp cheddar, and a touch of Buffalo milk mozzarella. It’s about 15% buffalo milk; the rest is cow’s milk. It adds a little moisture.”
Beyond the Buffalo Gal, Sawyer said her favorite sandwich is the Popeye, a spinach artichoke parmesan, mozzarella sandwich. “It’s got the flavor of spinach artichoke dip but the texture of a grilled cheese, you still get the stretch,” Sawyer said.
She rotates her menu, and folks somehow found a way to get to her wherever she’s at when the White Lightning comes up. “It’s like a white pizza, garlic, and herb, or cheesy bread turned inside out,” Sawyer explained. “People descend on the truck to grab the White Lightning.”
There must be something about the name! Earlier this month, Sawyer began to spread out into Atlanta where she has opened a kitchen in the basement of Neighborhood Church right off Little Five Points at Candler Park. “We’re going to be doing “to- go” and “pick-up” plates for grilled cheese fans in the ATL.”
For more information, visit eatspeakcheesy.com and follow them on social media.