WAYNE, N.J. -- Pulled pork mac and cheese. Buffalo chicken mac and cheese. Braised applewood bacon mac and cheese. To get these delicious comfort foods, North Jerseyans no longer have to scout out the Mac Truck food truck.
Mac Truck has now opened its first kiosk location, in Wayne's Willowbrook Mall.
Chef Dom Tesoriero has a pretty simple answer for why he chose this food in particular: "I felt that the demographic that would eat macaroni and cheese is -- everybody."
But his path to this business hasn't exactly been linear.
Tesoriero graduated from New York City's Institute of Culinary Education nearly a dozen years ago, and his career has featured very high-end cuisine, the Olympics and a fresh-pasta business concept.
But it was a somewhat random six-week gig at the Saratoga Race Course that put the cheese-bearing wheels in motion.
"I went to Saratoga to make soup," Tesoriero told Daily Voice.
The "Chowder Man" had retired, you see, and there were complaints about the new soup that his replacement was making. While it seemed like a strange thing to Tesoriero, Manhattan clam chowder was "a big thing" at the racetrack: "Very quickly, I realized how important this soup is."
He said on the opening day of the track, there were no complaints, and people loved it. "I was affectionately known as the 'Chowder Boy.'"
The track wanted him back the next season, but he now had a bargaining chip, and he told them, "The only way I'll come back, is if you let me bring the truck." And, with less than three weeks' lead time, he rented an old pizza truck and developed his concept.
"I was at the race track, and I picked a winner," Tesoriero said.
That next year, he made his macaroni at night, made the soup in the morning and sold the macaroni throughout the day. It was 19 hours a day for 45 days in a row, but it was wonderful, he recalled.
"The truck has become as famous as the soup," he said. "And then I rolled into New York City with it."
Someone else now makes the soup.
The Staten Island native has graced the streets of the city with his lovely, cheesy creations since 2012. He's also done "a ton" of events in New York and New Jersey, as well as fed folks at venues as diverse at Baltimore's Preakness Stakes and Comic-Con.
Tesoriero was also a finalist in season 11 of "Food Network Star," in 2015, and the show provided additional exposure for the business.
The mac and cheese magician doesn't come from an especially culinary-centered home, though. Both his parents spent their careers in the post office.
"But, as with any family, the dinner table was an important part of growing up," he said. And both his parents and grandparents were good cooks.
Tesoriero has taken the familiar favorite and added layers of new detail -- which are, of course, optional. Customers also have toppings options, ranging from Sriracha and spicy mayo to pickled onions and extra cheese.
For Tesoriero? "I use bacon like a condiment."
The business began with the single Mac Truck, but it then added a cart version, affectionately known as the Mini Mac. Having opened the new kiosk, he said he's absolutely still planning on continuing with the mobile versions, and he wants to continue doing all his flagship events.
"We're looking forward to growing the business," he said. "But going forward, we really like the idea of a kiosk business."
Tesoriero's mall location opened in mid-December, as the holiday shopping was getting into full swing.
"We opened up right in the middle of everything," he said. But he and his staff had put a lot of thought into it, and it opened up pretty smoothly.
The new location does offer more options, though, Tesoriero said. On the truck, the menu was more about set flavors, but with the kiosk, it's more of a build-your-own concept.
"We still have the favorites and the recommended combinations, but we have a host of vegetables, sauces and meats, that they can mix and match. It's really fun, to see what people come up with."
He also excitedly mentioned that a lot of the customers at the new location aren't new to his food, having had his creations at one of the many events he's done across the state.
"We're happy to be in Wayne, New Jersey," Tesoriero said. "The people have been fantastic."