On Assignment: Gus Breakfast & Lunch truck serves up a smile

JERSEY CITY, N.J., FEB. 1, 2012 — A photo essay on a day in the life with Gus Breakfast & Lunch food truck.

Gus Papathanasis, 58, is the owner of the Gus Breakfast & Lunch food truck for 27 years. It's 5:05 a.m. and Gus replenishes the food truck's bread supply before heading off to New Jersey City University on Kennedy Boulevard where he regularly parks his truck. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus is also the owner of Papa's Restaurant at 896 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City for 21 years. Every morning, he opens the restaurant and loads his truck with fresh ingredients. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus brings out condiment bottles to refill at the restaurant. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Jose Gomez, Gus' employee for 16 years, carries eggs, sausages, and other ingredients from the restaurant to load into the truck. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Jose stocks up the food truck with milk. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Inside the restaurant, Gus picks out donuts to sell in the food truck while sharing a laugh with an early customer, left, and Martha Gomez, right, his employee for 10 years and Jose's wife. Martha said two of their children have worked part-time as teenagers for Gus at the restaurant and have learned to cook from him. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

While waiting for Jose to finish loading up the food truck, Gus helps cook some home fries for the restaurant. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus serves breakfast to early morning customers. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Pete Tserpelis, 31, is Gus' nephew and has worked at Papa's Restaurant for 11 years and is now the manager. With no children of his own, Gus said that when he retires, he will turn the restaurant over to Pete. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus shows Efrain Beltran, who has only worked at the restaurant for two weeks, how to make a sandwich. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

With the food truck all ready, Gus prepares to drive from the restaurant to his regular spot outside the NJCU campus on Kennedy Boulevard. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

At 6:28 a.m., Jose and Gus, open up the food truck outside their usual spot on Kennedy Boulevard outside the NJCU campus. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Dennis Ciszkowski, a long-time customer of Gus' and an NJCU employee greets Gus and Jose from behind the fence. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Jose serves Dennis, the first customer of the day. Dennis has been a loyal customer for 13 years and sings praises for Gus' "great food." "One of these days, I'm gonna buy stock in his business," Dennis said jokingly.Throughout the day, Dennis returned to the truck three more times. Gus said that he is one of his best customers. "He is happy all the time," he said. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus chats with NJCU employees who stopped in to get breakfast. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus has somewhat become a confidant to his long-time customers telling him about deaths in their families and even their health problems. An NJCU employee remarked that Gus would know first if the school will be closed during a winter storm even before the school makes an announcement because even administrators disclose things to him. Gus said that even the president of the university is one of his long-time customers. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus, left, wraps a blueberry muffin as Jose makes change. The two work at a frenetic but almost rhythmic pace in a space that's about 15 feet long and only two feet wide. Ten years ago, there used to be four people working in his truck at the same time, Gus said, but the sluggish economy forced him to lay off two. From the time they opened at 6 a.m., they have been serving customers non-stop until a brief lull around 2 p.m. The food truck leaves at 5 p.m. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus, left, said he never went to high school. His father owned a restaurant in Greece where Gus first learned how to cook. After working for several restaurants in Hudson County, he bought his first food truck. For 27 years, he said he has never had any competition save for his brother, Bill Papathanasis, whose food truck is parked on the south side of the NJCU campus. But a new food truck took up a spot on the north side just a day before. Gus said he's not worried about the competition. "I have plenty of steady customers," he said. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus toasts a muffin on the grill where bacon and eggs are simultaneously cooking. Gus said his father taught him to only serve food he himself would like to eat. "I can eat anything," Gus said, "except eggs. I don't like the taste of eggs." But his years of experience in the food business in Jersey City taught him that American fare is what sells the most to his customers. Being Greek, he said he used to have gyros on the menu, but they didn't sell as well as bacon and eggs--which people would order for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus gets his first break of the morning at 9:36 a.m. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus chats with his friend John Economou, 24, during a lull. John who is a student at NJCU often comes by the food truck to keep Gus company when things slow down.Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal

Gus fixes up a couple of California cheeseburgers. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Jose serves some late morning customers. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Customers wait for their orders. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Customers wait for their orders as Gus hustles at the grill. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

The lunch crowd made up of mostly NJCU staff and students line up at Gus' food truck. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus said he has not changed the prices on his menu for ten years because he knows students don't have a lot of money. Sometimes, he said, a student would tell him he can't pay for lunch, and Gus would give him a sandwich for free or would tell him to pay when he can. "I used to be a kid, too, with no money," Gus said. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus chats with customers Ro Pietranera, left, and Pat Murphy, who are teachers at the A. Harry Moore School across the street from his food truck. Murphy recalls how she once brought her pre-school students to the food truck and Gus taught the kids how to handle money. "He showed them how to make change. He was very patient and supportive of the kids," she said. "We love them!" said Pietranera of Gus and Jose. "They are great people. And they have the best memories of anyone I know. They can remember each customer's name and what they like to order," she said. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus and Jose say goodbye to customers Ro Pietranera, left, and Pat Murphy. The two have become such fixtures in the community that people often greet them when they pass by their food truck. And they would greet back with a smile and a wave. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus grills some onions for a cheesesteak sandwich. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Customers have commented on Jose's sense of humor. He loves to play jokes with the regulars, for instance telling a customer with a straight face he owes $25 dollars for a $3.25 sandwich, or sneaking whole bottles of ketchup and mustard inside a brown paper bag and passing it off as the customer's lunch order or, in this case, handing an entire 5-lb. bag of sugar to customer who asked for some in his coffee. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus and Jose get another coffee break from what has been a busy morning. He has had no bite to eat since he opened up this morning save for a slice of bacon. He jokes that he doesn't eat much so he can "fit and move about" in the truck. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Gus lights up a cigarette during a break. He said he loves his job because it keeps him out of the house and gives him something to do. Even when he retires and turns over the business to his nephew, he said will still help out at the restaurant. He really is fond of cooking, too, and at home he loves to barbecue. "I also love my customers. I've never had any problem with any of them," he said. In fact, he said, when the city proposed an ordinance that would force food trucks to relocate every two hours, his customers called up and wrote City Hall to petition against the proposed ordinance. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Jessica HurleyFebruary 10, 2012 - 12:26 pm

This is my loyal breakfast truck. I am very satisfied with their cooking and the prices that they charge at the truck.

MillieFebruary 10, 2012 - 11:07 am

I dont see anyone wearing gloves when handleling food thats not good

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