NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Alphonso McDuffy had a dream of one day being a chef. After graduating with a degree in food science from Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky, McDuffy had worked his way up and reached the coveted position of executive sous-chef, the second in command of a kitchen, at the ritzy Fairmont Hotel in Downtown Chicago.
But 15 years ago he realized there’s only so much you can see while standing by a stove.
“I wanted to see the world,” McDuffy told The Trucker at the Petro Stopping Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas, “before I leave this world.”
McDuffy, 42, who lives in Indianapolis, drives a 2011 Volvo 670 for Jazzy A. Trucking out of Fishers, Indiana, hauling general commodities — typically to Texas.
“This is better,” McDuffy said of trucking. “It’s less pressure. You just follow the rules of the road.”
While most might find driving an 80,000 pound rig more stressful than preparing veal in a red burgundy sauce — one of McDuffy’s specialities — he explained with cooking, “Your critics are right there. If your job is driving, people are not pulling you over to say your driving is incorrect.”
But being employed by a well-known hotel did give him the opportunity to serve some big names, including basketball star Michael Jordan and cater an event for Oprah Winfrey. While he did not get to meet Oprah, he did meet the revered Bulls player.
“I’m not going to say he was arrogant, but direct in things he wants,” McDuffy said with a smile.
These days while out on the road, he’s mostly entertained by listening to his CB radio, despite all the bad and the “politics that nobody has any idea about. It’s all good,” McDuffy said. “Times are changing and people have to accept it … we’re seeing history being made.”
And one of the most beautiful things he’s seen while traveling wasn’t a place or a sunset, but a couple in New York City sharing an interracial kiss in public 10 years ago, when it was not as common.
“You just never see that,” McDuffy said. “It was just two people in love.”
His idea of changing the industry is also a little different — instead of pointing to this and that regulation to change, he said drivers as a whole need to start living healthier.
“I eat a lot of fruit and raw vegetables and drink plenty of water and juice,” he said, admitting he’ll eat meat on weekends when he’s home.
Also during his time off, he’ll play basketball, go bike riding and run, usually three miles the two days he’s home.
While trucking might have been his second career choice, it’s the one that’s his favorite, despite the highs and lows.
“Life is learning you have to take the good with the bad. It’s great being in this field,” he said. “… I’ll stay until they tell me I can’t drive anymore.”