Jack Tenney is the founder of FGC, a pop-up kitchen that serves grilled cheese sandwiches all over Los Angeles. The "no one leaves hungry" policy means that anyone can get one of Jack's famed grilled cheeses, even if they can't pay for it. According to Jack, “We all have to eat, but to me it’s more about making people feel like someone cares about them. And if we feed them along the way, that’s great too.”
What made you want to start a grilled cheese pop-up? I was living at home during quarantine, taking my final semester of classes at USC online, spending time with family, and getting really into cooking— which for me, was a really nice creative outlet. As I left my undergraduate experience behind, I was looking for a project to pour my heart into and a way to give something back. So, I decided to launch a pop-up food stand. All I needed was a table, a grill, and people who liked my mission. Grilled cheese seemed like the best starting point for three reasons: it’s versatile, it’s cheap, and everyone likes it.
The “No One Leaves Hungry” policy is so heartwarming. Can you tell us how that started and how it’s been going? For me, FGC was a way to give back to my community and to set an example for how I think we should treat people— not just by feeding them, but by making them really feel welcome. I implemented the policy that if you can’t pay then you can eat for free, and it was an immediate success. I posted about the policy on my birthday and ended up getting thousands of dollars in donations, which I was really grateful for because that helps to pay for the grilled cheeses we hand out for free everyday. For every person that eats for free, there’s someone that is really inspired by the work we do and ends up tipping $20 for a water. I wanted to create a space where people felt welcome— and if price is a barrier to feeling at home at FGC, then you don’t have to worry about it.
What is your favorite part of FGC? One thing I know for sure is that food is a really powerful tool in connecting with people. I think there’s a lot of dignity in food, and not having access to it can make people feel inhuman. When you hand someone a sandwich that you poured your heart into, you can tell that it touches their heart too. There’s an expectation in life for everything to be an exchange of goods. What I love about FGC is that if you’re food insecure, you don’t have to give us anything—and the exchange of goods system starts to dismantle there. For me, it’s been really special and cathartic to give back to my community without expecting anything in return.
What's the story behind your logo? (See below) I designed the flower middle-finger logo because it encapsulated FGC’s mission. As humans, we have a tendency to push people away, react with anger, and see people as "others"— hence the middle finger. The flower symbolizes resisting that judgemental urge and instead treating everyone around you with kindness and giving back— whether it be money, food, a smile, or a simple hello.