By Anissa V. Rivera
Che Ruddell-Tabisola ’04 finds celebration in the daily grind. As co-owner of the BBQ Bus Smokehouse in Washington D.C., Ruddell-Tabisola runs a business that includes a celebrated storefront and pioneering food truck.
“You have to stop when you can and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished, feel good about it, be mindful of how perfect in its own way this exact moment is, and you have to appreciate it because for better or worse there will never be another moment like it,” he says.
Some moments stand out: In fifth grade, the California native started a petition to cut the amount of homework his class got, sparking a lifetime of activism. In 1999, his father, Angelino Gonzalez Tabisola, graduated from the Mount’s Weekend/Evening College (WEC) program with a degree in liberal arts. At the time, he was the oldest graduate in the Mount’s history.
“(My dad) had so much love for the Mount, which he passed on to me,” Ruddell-Tabisola says. An endowed scholarship was established in honor of Angelino Tabisola: The AGT Lifelong Learner Award, which is given to WEC students.
In 2004, Ruddell-Tabisola himself graduated from the Mount with a bachelor’s degree in English. He relished the days he spent on campus as “the most wonderful and tranquil weekend retreat you could imagine,” he recalls. The program for nontraditional students was based at the Chalon Campus at that time.
Ruddell-Tabisola later earned his master’s degree in international conflict analysis at the University of Kent in Brussels, and began working as a lobbyist.
In 2009, he and his partner Tadd decided to leave their jobs and open the BBQ Bus food truck, serving brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken and baby back ribs. The bus rolled out in 2011 “so that we could chase a life of meaningful work doing something we love to do,” Ruddell-Tabilosa says. In 2017, they opened their storefront in the Brightwood neighborhood of D.C.
They are considered pioneers of the D.C. food truck scene. Ruddell-Tabisola served as the executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association before beginning his stint as political director of the National Food Truck Association.
“I believe at the heart of what we do is nourish and foster community, and it’s how I’m realizing my call to service right now,” Ruddell-Tabisola says. “Every day I wake up and work my heart out for that mission, and working towards it completely envelops me: It demands every bit of my intelligence, creativity, patience, courage, persistence, stamina, and a million other things, and it touches everyone in my life. It feels like I’m giving the best of myself every day, and it feels great. I’m calling that success.”