When COVID-19 shut things down in March, local restaurant worker J.D. Snead started cooking at home to keep from going crazy—“cooking for sanity,” he calls it. After he posted photos of his food online, friends asked to order what he was making. Before long, his little hobby had grown to become a business. Now, under the name The Michelin Minivan, he cooks and delivers meals five days a week to customers all over the Sacramento region.
Snead posts his menu on The Michelin Minivan’s Facebook page and accepts orders via text. The menu changes weekly; this week, it’s shrimp ceviche on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On weekends, he serves either Korean barbecue or chicken adobo. A plate for one typically costs $12. Recently, a large platter of clams linguine, enough to feed four, cost $28 and came with a prosciutto-and-greens appetizer. There’s a delivery charge as well, between $3 and $12, depending on how far Snead has to travel from his home base in Arden.
The Michelin Minivan is an example of a ghost kitchen—a virtual restaurant without walls that prepares food to go. It’s a growing phenomenon in the COVID-19 era as chefs and restaurateurs look for innovative new ways to feed people when they can’t operate indoors.
Now back working at his two jobs (as a bartender at Shady Lady Saloon and a cook at Kasbah), Snead and his wife, Amber, run The Michelin Minivan in between his regular gigs. Snead wears a paper crown when he delivers the food—a nod to the couple’s 6-year-old daughter, whose name is Princess—and takes customer appreciation photos at drop-off for posting on social media.
Right now, he makes his deliveries using a 2009 Dodge Journey (“it’s like a minivan and an SUV had a baby”), but he’s looking into buying a food trailer. He’d also like to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant centered around his Filipino heritage and his love for Korean barbecue.
How did he come up with the name The Michelin Minivan? “Michelin means high-end, tweezer food, but that’s not really what we’re offering,” he explains. “We attached Minivan at the end of Michelin to show its humbleness. But you get big, Michelin-type flavors at an affordable price.”
To see a menu, go to facebook.com/themichelinminivan. To place an order, text Snead at (916) 889-6611.