Gather • Eat • Enjoy at Table 286
Jake Henderson and wife, Leann, carefully planned the launch of their new Kentucky Proud business, Table 286. Then COVID-19 hit and it was difficult to get permits. Starting in May, they were busy operating from their Olive Hill home base, where they are Grayson RECC members. The truck travels to Lexington, eastern Kentucky and other towns.
The business is named for the town’s three-digit phone prefix, 286, when they were growing up as kids. Henderson adds, “The logo features an olive tree and olive leaf, which ties back to our hometown. We want to make a name for it and show that good things can come out of small towns. A lot of people when they post about us, they say ‘these are hometown people,’ so we take pride in that.”
Along with four other employees, their four children help with the business. Twins Silas and Sam Turley, 17, work on the truck, while 10-year-old Luke Turley “likes to count the money,” says Henderson. Daughter Jade Henderson, 22, plans to start helping with marketing and social media.
“We wanted to take a little more elevated food back home to Olive Hill where we grew up together and share farm-to-table food to the region,” says Henderson, which he describes as an elevated Southern style of cooking.
Jake and Leann grew up together in Olive Hill, going to school together since fourth grade and through college. Going their separate ways, they married and had kids, divorced, and got back together in 2017.
“I was a welder in the pipeline’s union. That’s what my family did, that’s what I did,” says Henderson. “Food was always a love of mine. I was always making stuff. When I got back with Leann, she encouraged me to go to Sullivan University’s culinary school in Lexington. She pretty much walked me down there and signed me up. I graduated at the top of my class.”
While in school Jake started working at The Kentucky Castle, “where I became executive sous chef within a few months of being hired for the events.” Leann was also working at The Kentucky Castle catering events.
Soon they decided to start their own food truck, which they both now work full time at.
“Leann helps a lot with the cooking and ideas for the menu. She does more of the front of the house type of things, and leaves the back of house to me, but we work together on both of it,” says Henderson.
Local food is the base
Henderson says he buys beef from Olive Hill farmers and as much local vegetables as possible. “I try to use as much local products as we can. We buy Kentucky Proud products. Our dishes rotate with the season.”
Table 286 offers at least five sandwiches and a chef special every day along with fried green tomatoes, fried zucchini, fried pickles and drinks. “There are at least 10 or more main choices daily,” says Henderson.
Table 286 changes the sandwiches around to keep everything new. Several of their sandwiches are pressed, such as the Philly cheese steak. It and the burger are their biggest sandwich sellers.
“The Table 286 burger features two quarter-pound patties, a grilled ciabatta bun, fresh spring mix, pickles, tomato, onions and Duke mayonnaise,” says Henderson. “We try to use local beef. It’s the kind of burger like your grandmother would fix for you when you were young.”
Henderson says the Reuben sells out fast. “We make our own pickles sometimes, our bread and butter pickles. We make our own pastrami: we marinate it for 14 days and smoke it ourselves. It’s a popular sandwich, but it’s a little more time consuming. We make our own Thousand Island dressing from scratch and we pickle the cabbage ourselves.”
He says their crab cake plate also gets a lot of good reviews. It includes two large crab cakes with either fries or baked beans or fries and coleslaw. The crab cakes come with a homemade mango remoulade.
Other seafood favorites include a seared salmon salad with spring mix, blueberries raspberries, feta cheese, toasted almonds and a raspberry vinaigrette; the mahi-mahi with homemade mango tartar sauce; and the shrimp po’ boy that was recently added.
He says his customers are adventurous and looking for new stuff. “They get excited when I change the chef special. I think people, especially from small towns, are willing to try a new flavor profile.”
COVID-19 hurt the food truck industry because so many big-ticket events were cancelled, he says. “The Crave Food+Music Festival (Lexington) was canceled; we were really looking forward to that. Campaign rallies with 4,000–5,000 people got canceled. Court days and fall fairs, all those were canceled.”
To offset some of the lost revenue, he says along with different chef’s special two or three times a week, they try to do fun stuff to keep people interested.
“I try to do an international day once a month in Olive Hill,” says Henderson. He explains they give people a passport, and will give them a 286 stamp for international day purchases. At the end of year, people turn in their passports and their name is entered into a drawing for a prize for the number of stamps they have.
He says, “We do a different country each day. We’ve done Greece, India, China and Germany. India really surprised us that it was such a big seller in a small country town,” says Henderson. “We served chicken tikka marsala and coconut curry chicken. We sold out in an hour and a half. It blew our mind.”
The Juicery by Table 286
Another new venture is their smaller food truck called The Juicery by Table 286. Sometimes they set it up alongside Table 286, other times the trailer is taken by itself to small towns.
“It’s a new concept, so we’re working out the menus and marketing right now,” says Henderson. The Juicery sells smoothies (with or without protein), keto bowls and salads. Nothing is cooked in that truck. The avocado boat features pineapple, granola, and honey,” he says. “Leann has her doctorate in pharmacy, so she’s into a healthy side of food.”
Henderson says they have plans for a brick and mortar store in Olive Hill as soon as they can locate the right spot.
Table 286 generally serves Tuesday through Saturday, and sometimes on Sundays. They also cater events.
Watch Facebook: Table 286 for where to find Table 286.
People can call in orders at (859) 229-8449.