Joseph Mutterperl lives and works in Ocean County, but when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, his heart — and culinary talents — landed in Houston.
After the Category 4 storm devastated Southeast Texas, with as much as 60 inches of rain and winds up to 130 m.p.h., the owner of South Side Sandwich Shop and Smokehouse in Lakewood got a call from a friend in the Lonestar State asking about how to prepare to a food item.
“I asked him if I could figure out what to do with my store, would he like an extra set of hands?” recalls the Brooklyn native, 49. “He said, ‘I would love it.’ . . . The next day I booked my tickets, arranged to have my store only open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., hired extra help and flew down to Dallas.
“That Saturday night, we drove down in a three-car convoy, with a 30-foot trailer. We arrived in Houston at 10:40 a.m. By 11:15 a.m., I had the first of 1,000 pieces of chicken breast on the grill for that night’s BBQ dinner.”
And that was just the start for Mutterperl and friends.
“The first night we served 1,000 pieces of chicken, 1,000 portions of smoked, pulled beef, 900 hotdogs, beans, lots and lots of salad, plus drinks and dessert.”
This, he said, continued for four days in a row, for 14 hours a day — in 95-degree heat. “And I loved every second of the work.”
When it came to others in their time of need, Mutterperl felt compelled to act. His wife Alana and their six children gave him the thumbs-up, and off the husband and dad went.
“The reason I went was because this was something I could do, and truthfully this was something I wanted to do. So, I did it,” said the affable Mutterperl, also a grandfather of four. “Yes, I didn’t make as much money in the store [on Cedarbridge Avenue], but I felt that what I did in Houston was so worth it.”
“For every one bad thing the media can find about Lakewood, I could give you 20 good things that we have here.”
Then again, giving back to the community is nothing new for this Lakewood resident of more than 24 years. He volunteers as a firefighter for Station 66 in town — also known as Jr. Hose Company No. 3 — and for several Jewish organizations. His wife is right there along with him, often helping out with fundraising events.
His story — and others like it — are what Mutterperl would like everyone to hear more about.
“For every one bad thing the media can find about Lakewood, I could give you 20 good things that we have here,” he said. “From people dropping everything to help anyone who needs it, to just helping someone cross the street if they need help.”
Helping out in Ocean County — and Houston: that’s part of the stories that make up the community of Lakewood.
For video of Joseph Mutterperl and friends in Houston, visit his Instgram page: @southsidesandwichshop.