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Jacksonville food truck owner's ambitious flavor finding the palates of NFL stars

Chef FeFe Ballard is the owner of Ambitious Eats and has served as the personal chef for Leonard Fournette, Jalen Ramsey, and Allen Robinson.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The parking lot of the Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church sits empty on a hot Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville's Northside.

Alone sits a modern day mystery machine, it's generator whirring low. It's an abstract invitation to take a look inside, where you'll find your classic favorites. 

Wings, fries, and cheese steaks beckoned goodbye with smile packed with love and creativity.

"I've always had ambition," Ambitious Eats Food Truck owner, Tierra Ballard, said. "I'm going to do it, I'm going to try it, and if I fail trying," she added.

Ballard, who goes by Chef FeFe, a nickname given to her as a teenager by her sister, has been serving up guilty pleasure to the Northside for almost five years.

"A lot of people tend to say if nothing is said than they enjoy it, but I need you tell me I need you to say oh my god this sauce went perfectly with my chicken...I need to know," FeFe said with a smile.

Before Chef Fefe, there was a teenager filled with unknown aspirations, she just needed a little inspiration.

"I think it was about 2008 or '09 or so the movie Ratatouille came out and if anybody knows the move the Ratatouille it's about a young boy and then a rat that can really cook and the moral of the movie was anyone can cook," FeFe said. 

She started small, making breakfast scrambles for friends and eventually enrolling at Florida State College at Jacksonville's Culinary School.

Credit: Chef FeFe
Chef FeFe at her FSCJ Culinary School graduation.

"Really great program we did regional foods, we did international foods. It was really the culinary school that broadened my horizons," FeFe said.

At FSCJ, FeFe learned the science behind food as well. How to gain muscle, lose weight, portion sizes, etc. 

It gave her the confidence to make the boldest move of her life.

"I went out one Sunday evening roughly around 2017, and I met Jalen Ramsey someone next to me was like hey he tweeted he wanted a personal chef, and I was like, so you don't say, and I was like the ambition in me I'm going to go talk to him," FeFe said.

Ramsey took Fefe's card and reached out a few weeks later. 

"He texted me from an out of town number...and he was like {it's} Jalen Ramsey and I was like oh thank you lord," FeFe said.

Chef Fefe became the personal chef for several Jaguars, including Ramsey, Leonard Fournette, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, and Allen Robinson, who flew FeFe out to Chicago to cook for his family on Thanksgiving.

Credit: Chef FeFe
Chef FeFe and her husband, Ben Ballard, with Allen Robinson and his family during Thanksgiving last year.

"Even though he moved to another state another city, he still calls you to come cook such a sacred meal for him and that really put things in perspective," FeFe said. 

Whether she's serving leg of lamb in Lenny's (Fournette) kitchen or wings in her food truck, Chef FeFe pours everything into it.

It's what any ambitious person would do.

"Will they enjoy this the way that I intended them are they going to feel my heart and soul in the dish that I make them as a chef I have integrity in my dishes I won't serve anyone anything I won't eat myself I put a lot of heart and soul into my food," FeFe said. 

Ambitious Eats is opens at 2:30 p.m. every other Saturday and is located in the parking lot of the Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church in the Northside.