He’s had almost as many jobs as he has had addresses.
T. Chad Montgomery holds the distinction of having one of the first food trucks in Statesboro. The mobile concession vehicle with the business name of 4 & 20 Bakers rolled into Statesboro in the fall of 2016.
Initially, Montgomery sold mostly cupcakes from his food truck, and often partnered with Three Tree Coffee as he moved his business about to places like the college campus and to downtown events that included the Statesboro Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
Montgomery is known for his creativity and uniqueness, and he also partnered with The Painted Chef to make and sell “mancakes,” cornbread muffins stuffed with pulled pork from the Register barbecue restaurant.
The mobile food truck was just one of many items on Montgomery’s bucket list. And though he said a restaurant was not a longstanding bucket list entry, this past Friday he opened a restaurant in downtown Sylvania that will sell pizza, calzones and his famous desserts.
“I’ve loved baking since I was a kid,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always been in the kitchen, and I always wanted to be a chef.”
Montgomery, who often works with interns from Georgia Southern University’s business or hospitality programs, encourages young people to work hard at whatever they do.
“Since I was 18 and joined the Marines, I’ve always had two jobs. McDonald’s at first, along with the Marines. I’ve managed retail stores, been a bodyguard, worked as a personal trainer. Always two jobs.”
In fact, his very first job as a child was that of milking cows and throwing hay bales.
“I came from very humble beginnings. We couldn’t actually afford milk. I had to take my turn making milk, from powder.
“We were the family that people brought donations to, brought food and clothes to. So when I was older and working, I always shared whatever I cooked with others.”
A pivotal point in his cooking career came in 2011.
“I was working for the Department of Defense, but in about a week and a half, I was about to be unemployed,” he said. “My mom passed away during that time. I started cooking for family and friends, whoever needed something for a party or reunion or dinner.”
Montgomery said he was playing with food – cooking and creating and sharing, but not selling – in the beginning.
He needed employment though, and took a job in Schenectady, New York, where he lived at the time, delivering pizzas. That turned into being a cook and that turned into supplying his dessert creations to the restaurant.
“That’s what got me on the Hilton radar,” said Montgomery. His career took off when he secured a job as a pastry chef for the Hilton Hotel organization. “I was cooking tiramisu for 180 people,” he said. “I made 700 desserts every week. I didn’t know what I was doing at first.”
And make it, he did, opening his original 4 & 20 Bakers company in New York.
After three years of making desserts in New York, Montgomery’s address changed yet again when he moved to Sylvania to help take care of his dad in 2013.
Montgomery put his catering business on hold temporarily to care for his dad, but, with his usual drive, started the search for work.
With an Equine Science and Management Degree from State University of New York at Morrisville and a resume that included veteran status, former Hilton chef, previous caterer who’d served Gladys Knight and Frankie Valli, and a stint as a professional fisherman, Montgomery accepted a custodian position at Georgia Southern University.
Montgomery worked his shifts, stayed up all night baking, worked on his father’s farm in Sylvania, and sold desserts at GS’s Campus Farmers Market, first from a tent, then from a food truck.
“It was a whirlwind of run, run, run. It’s been a wild ride for a small-town boy.”
After a year as a custodian, Montgomery soon purchased a larger food truck and began selling pizza, also.
The food experimenter said that a restaurant wasn’t the original plan, but he needed a commercial kitchen to continue creating new desserts and dishes. Thus, the birth of 4 & 20 Bakers in Sylvania on Ennis Street with business partner Amanda Wynn. Wynn also is a former veteran and worked at Georgia Southern as a business advisor, which is how she met Montgomery.
Wynn, who has an MBA from Georgia Southern, will manage the restaurant, while Montgomery works on his farm and caters for Black Creek Boy Scout Camp, yet another business exploration, where his company is the exclusive caterer.
Montgomery said he’s had an “overwhelming welcome” from people he’s met in Sylvania since living there. Many who have had his pizza call him the black Italian. Others, who’ve taken home treats, call him Grandma Chad, he said.
“They tell me I’m like I a grandma. I won’t let you leave without taking something home with you.
“I’ve always had the need to feed, because of the way I grew up. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of others. My initial goal was to do enough to have a good life for myself, but enough to help other people, too.”