Like many others, March 2020 was a defining time for Monica and Jayson Fuentes. Current owners of ValerEats food truck, the two sought more out of life than their previous jobs in insurance. While simultaneously working and caring for their four children from home during the pandemic, the Fuentes’ decided they needed a change.
Besides Monica’s past waitressing job and Jayson’s brief stint at a Jersey Mike’s during his college years, the pair had no background in the food industry. However, a fascination with food was always there. “Food is a passion we both have and love,” says Jayson.
Launching their very own food truck seemed like a good way to indulge that passion.
The truck’s namesake comes from Monica’s late Aunt Val who passed in September 2020. The memory of her aunt provided the initial inspiration for pursuing a food truck life. “She loved to eat but didn’t cook,” says Monica. “She was basically like a second mom to me growing up.”
When it came to deciding what type of food to provide, they took a strategic approach. Observing the lackluster number of breakfast trucks in the area was plenty enough motivation to fill “the niche Richmond needed based on the recipes and ideas we had,” notes Jayson.
Having frequent pop-ups at local hospitals, they took great pride in serving frontline workers during the pandemic on a regular basis. “If we can go to hospitals and serve nurses, EMS workers, and doctors – people who save lives – that’s more inspiration for us,” says Jayson.
While a truck’s first pop-up almost never goes as planned, the Fuentes’ truck has become a well-oiled machine since their debut in August 2021. “[We] can do it with our eyes closed now,” says Jayson. “We work efficiently and really well together.” Couple goals.
When you scope out the menu, you might notice that several items are named after the couple’s children. Their signature sauce, “Val’s Sauce,” also bears the truck’s namesake. This operation is truly a family affair. And when it comes to ordering, the couple insists you check out their three hottest items (figuratively): Claire’s Texas Burrito, Kai Philly Burrito, and Poffertjes (Dutch mini pancakes).
The Poffertjes come in varying sizes – 5, 10, or 15 – with several toppings to pick from. These sweet treats are quite popular amongst the kids. As for the burritos, they come in one size – large and in charge. With so many drool-worthy options, decision-making can become a challenge.
When asked what’s next for the pair’s new full-time gig, they have a couple thoughts, but one goal stands out: A small diner-style brick-and-mortar location is their ideal next step. There are unforeseen challenges that come with a kitchen on wheels, so a standalone would aid consistency. But while that remains in the works, their current rotation of local pop-ups remains gratifying for the duo.
Find ValerEats’s next pop-up location by following them on Instagram (@valereats_rva) or finding them on Street Food Finder (https://streetfoodfinder.com/ValerEats).