Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Keto Korner owner, Jonathan Carabajal, displays an OMAD (One Meal A Day) burger.
Jonathan Carabajal has been on a keto-based diet before it became a “thing.”
Now, he is spreading his knowledge, along with his passion for cooking, to the Central Valley with his Keto Korner food truck, which is based out of Madera and can be frequently found at the old Farnesi’s Restaurant.
“I used to be a personal trainer,” Carabajal said. “I used to meal prep for a lot of my clients. As I started to cook for them and lose weight, they wanted more. I did the keto thing before keto was even popular. Nobody knew what keto was.
“I used to make the food for them and they used to think I was crazy because of the food. They said there was no way I could lose weight from eating all of this. Little by little, as they started seeing results and their friends started seeing results, then other people contacted me to cook and do some meals for them.
“It kind of started to grow from there. It got to the point where it got so busy, I needed to choose what I was doing or expand and take this and do something with it. It decided to take it to the next level and reach more people. It started off as something for good friends that were clients of mine to help them out. Then, it spread like a wildfire.”
Carabajal tries to get is food truck out quite a bit, but is having time finding places to park.
“Farnesi’s is where we’ve been at,” he said. “We’ve asked other businesses to park there. It’s been kind of hard for us lately. People are not very happy with us because they say we’re stealing their business. It’s been hard to find a location. Farnesi’s has kind of worked out for us until we find another spot. It’s been a struggle. It’s been a struggle because we’ve been going good. It’s a bad thing, but it’s a good thing, as well.”
Originally from Merced and now resides in Madera, Carabajal has been bringing his food truck to patrons for almost a year.
“Starting out, it wasn’t too busy, but it wasn’t too slow,” he said. “It kind of came about at the perfect pace. There were people that were already my clients from the past. It was kind of like I was picking up where I left off, but in a full version. I still had my clients that knew me and my food who were telling people. We also had people that were wondering what keto was. Little by little, as the word got out, people found out there was a keto food truck, word began to spread and it took off.”
Carabajal gets comments to his social media posts that have spread across the world.
“To this day, we get people from New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Idaho, London, England, the Netherlands, Philippines reaching out to us and asking where we are located because they want to eat my food,” he said. “I tell them we’re in Madera. I ask how they heard about us and they say we are all over people’s social media. They were dying to eat my food. I have people asking to buy my food and if we can ship it. I don’t take the credit for it. I think God was preparing me this whole time for this moment. I feel like I’m still wrapping my mind around a food truck from Madera is getting business from people all over the world. It’s awesome and I love it.”
Although all of his food is keto-based, Carabajal said you don’t have to be on a keto diet to enjoy his food.
“All of your favorite food that you love to eat — favorite comfort food — I can offer you the same food in a keto alternative,” he said. “I can make you the same things, but without the sugars and flours you don’t want. I can make my food, I’m pretty confident, taste even better that what you are used to. We make chili cheesesteaks on our truck. Instead of making my bun out of flour and other stuff you don’t want, I make mine out of almond flour. The meat is filet mignon. Everything we use is prime quality. Nothing is frozen and we make everything from scratch. Everybody knows when you make something from scratch, it’s better than processed food. You’re getting quality food in everything. When you bite into it, you know it’s amazing. Everybody has already had the fast food burgers, nuggets and the normal. Why not step out, try something new that you never would have tried and you never know, you may just end up liking it.”
Carabajal said that keto means that it’s high in fat, moderate in protein and low carb.
“We used to get a lot of diehard keto fans,” he said. “They would bring friends who weren’t on keto to try the food. I even make a deal with some of them. Try that taco and if you don’t like it, I won’t charge you for it. It’s my way of getting them to step out. Sometimes they take a bite and say it’s better than a regular taco. Right then, they take two of them. Before I know it, they are regular customers. Our tacos we do is different than everybody. We do smoked brisket tacos, smoked tri-tip tacos, smoked chicken tacos, smoked pulled pork tacos.”
His most popular items are his barbecue items, including his brisket.
“We have people come to us on the weekend when we are selling the brisket,” Carabajal said. “They would buy a pound of it. We’ve had people come from Hanford, Coalinga, Selma, Modesto, Turlock and even Los Angeles come to our barbecue. Some of these people, on a weekly basis, drive to us. You name it, they come from everywhere. It puts a smile on my face and makes me feel good. There’s something about cooking something and other people enjoy it. You see the look on their face and it’s satisfying and gratifying. It makes you feel good.”
Another thing that separates his is his faith in God.
“We’re a Christian company,” he said. “Whenever I make food, I always pray over the food and ask the Lord to bless it before we serve it to anybody. We want to be a blessing to everybody. The Bible says, ‘Taste and see that the lord is good. That’s what they are tasting. Everything is going so good. I can’t ask for anything more.”
Carabajal is passionate about his cooking, but is also saddened, in a way. For a while, he was hoping to work with his dad on the truck after he retired from his job. However, a month after his father retired, he got cancer and passed away. His memory is sketched on his truck so his spirit oversees the operation.
“My dad has always been the barbecue guy in the family,” he said. “At any event, they want my dad’s barbecue. That’s where I got it from. We always talked that when he retired, we would open a food truck. I was excited because I was going to work with my dad and barbecue. Unfortunately, after he retired, he was diagnosed with cancer. He’s in heaven, but he’s on my trailer. Even though he passed away, he’s on my trailer. I’m still keeping that journey alive. He’s with us in spirit. I think that’s why we’re blessed because I believe my dad is in heaven, talking to God to give blessings to me because he says my son is faithful and he’s a good guy. This was something we should be doing together, but life happens. I’m still honoring him and I hope I’m doing him proud.”
Currently, he doesn’t have a set schedule of when he will be out and about, but he posts on Facebook and Instagram to let people know where he will be and what will be on the menu.
“We don’t have a specific schedules because I work around my wife’s work schedule,” he said. “When we are open, we are available for lunch and dinner. It just depends how long we are open because we sell out every single day.”
Eventually, Carabajal wants to open the first keto-based sit down restaurant, but will have to wait until the pandemic is over.
“Up until the COVID thing, my goal is to open the first keto restaurant,” he said. “I want a fine dining place. Cooking is my passion and I love it. I’ve heard stories about how my food has changed people’s lives and made them healthier. It’s so satisfying. I can’t believe God has blessed me with this.”