In a Forge Press exclusive, Abi Herbert recently wrestled through crowds of hungry engineering students to bag an interview with campus celebrity Jez from John’s Van. A beacon of light at the end of every weary undergrad’s morning, John’s Van was awarded the third best student eatery in Sheffield by the official university website; but how well do you really know the man behind the van?
Hi Jez! So tell us a bit of John’s Van history, when was John’s Van born and how many generations of Johns has The Van been handed down to?
The van was started by my mum and dad back in 1981. They had a shop where the car park is. That got knocked down. My parents put a van there as a temporary measure until new shops were built as they were told they could have one.
It surprises a lot of people that your name isn’t actually John; do people ever call you that?
Most people call me John. It takes too long to tell them the history and who John is so I just let them.
Unfortunately the Van was stolen back in 2013, did police manage to recover the original van or is this a new and improved John’s Van?
I got the stolen van back but had to get a replacement as it wasn’t found straight away and I kept the new one as it’s bigger and better.
Students at the university actually made a music video about the incident which is…interesting…and there was worldwide controversy stretching to Gibraltar and the US. Were you humbled by the support from your loyal customers?
I never knew how popular the van was until it was stolen. Since then it’s got more of a cult status than ever. Still get people asking me about the whole ‘find John’s van’ episode. Got a message from an old customer in China wishing me all the best while it was all going on. It was a very bad time only made better by the great support I had from all my customers. Non-customers got involved too.
Speaking of YouTube, we recently discovered a video where you took Nights Out Sheffield through your personal collection of burgers half-eaten by members of Pulp, the Cure and Bowie which sparked a lengthy debate as to whether or not this is true. Please put us out of our misery, do you really have a freezer in Rotherham full of half eaten celebrity sandwiches?!
The YouTube thing was a favour for a customer. He was promoting the new and improved Foundry I think.
News moves fast on campus and students love nothing more than John’s Van news. A petition was recently started to include a vegan option on your menu – is this something you’re looking into?
I didn’t know about the petition. I’m always open to new menu ideas from customers. I wasn’t aware a petition had been started. I’ll look into it further and maybe get something on for Freshers’ Week.
Where does John’s Van go during the holidays?
John’s Van is open all year round. In the summer my customers are mainly staff, builders and I’m very popular with the language school.
On Facebook you recently shared a ‘dank memes for Sheffield teens’ photo – do have any other favourite memes?
To be honest I never even knew what a meme was until someone sent me a link to the Sheffield teens one.
And finally, aside from John’s Van, where are some of your favourite places to eat in Sheffield?
The Graze Inn on Eccy Road. Marco at Milano’s in Millhouses. Almas Indian in Dore is amazing.
Images courtesy of John’s Van