For these three families, cooking isn’t just a necessity. It’s a chance to connect, one meal at a time.
Selling your house and all your stuff to live on the road for a year may sound extreme, but it’s exactly what Grady Bowman did with his wife and two young kids in 2016.
“It’s unique; people didn’t understand,” says the 31-year-old founder of Suboverland. “The freedom was really nice. It was a good time to reflect and think about what was going to be next for us.”
Now back in his hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho, Bowman continues to embrace simplicity, both in his family life and when transforming SUVs into overland adventure vehicles.
Bowman grew up around the classic cars his dad collected and his very first car was a ’69 Nissan Patrol These vintage vehicles taught him valuable skills.“When they broke down, I had to fix them,” he says.
“I’ve always had a love for being able to fix something, make it look better, perform better, then pass it on to someone else to enjoy.”
After graduating college and getting married, he worked as a FedEx contractor, maintaining a fleet of GM delivery vehicles. The money was good, but the job was stressful and kept him away from his wife and kids too much. “Number one on my priority list is family time,” he says. “Anything that gets in the way of that, I have to reel myself back.”
Bowman and his wife, Hisami, gave up their FedEx routes and sold their house and most of their material belongings. That and some investments allowed Bowman to be unemployed for a year while they drove around the country. Hisami is from Japan and had never seen much of America. They especially loved visiting the national parks of the Pacific Northwest, like Bighorn Canyon. Though the year was filled with some of the best times of Bowman’s life, the worst part of the experience was the unwieldy late ‘90s, Class A motorhome they lived in.
“It was huge and hard to maneuver, so you’re not going to do any off-road trails,” he says. “I thought there was a better solution.” Back home in Twin Falls, Bowman started tinkering with GM Suburbans, which have the same drivetrain as the FedEx vehicles, but with four-wheel-drive capability. Other SUV conversion companies existed, but they focused on customizing brand-new vehicles at very high price points. Bowman took his idea in a different direction.
“To make something simple is actually harder than complicating things,” he says. “We really try to make our builds, our marketing and the way we deal with people as simple as possible, take out the fluff.”
Suboverland creates handcrafted overland vehicles out of used Suburbans Bowman buys from neighboring states. Interiors are lined with pinewood for the feel of a cabin and amenities include a platform bed, recessed lights, solar shower and CNC machine-cut cubbies and drawers for organization. Clients come from across the country and around the globe to buy Bowman’s simple, affordable and reliable mobile homes. Whether folks are exploring on the weekend or living full-time in their Suboverland vehicles, they’re finding happiness in the simplicity of free living.
The Bowman family loves an adventure — and has nailed down meals on the run.
“Cooking on the road has its challenges, and cooking for children also has challenges,” Bowman says. “So, keeping things extremely simple is what I’ve found to be the best solution.”
A plate of sliders is a fast but satisfying meal on the road. These downsized burgers are kid-friendly, but adults love them, too. The smaller burger patties are easy to grill but can also be seared in a frying pan over a camp stove in a pinch. Simple sides include baby carrots, fruit, and chips. When the kids have been fed, it’s time for a “date-night dinner” with Snake River Farms filet mignon. One camp tip is to make smashed Yukon gold potatoes and blanched veggies at home and transport them in easy-to-pack foil containers.
The vacuum-sealed, individual packaging of Snake River Farms meat fits into Bowman’s strategy of planning and prepping uncomplicated meals in advance. It requires the one luxury he cannot go without: a refrigerator, which is included in the Ni and San models of Suboverland builds.
“Coolers are pretty high maintenance,” he says. Other than that, his camping remains as classic as his vehicles. “I have my old-school green Coleman two-burner stove and propane; we’re able to cook anything with it.”
With simple prep, you can savor the superior taste of premium cuts from Snake River Farms and enjoy the good life wherever you are.
It’s said that we eat with our eyes. The way food looks has a significant influence on how we perceive flavors and textures — a truth social media influencer Chad Montano holds dear. “Photography is a powerful tool,” says the 35-year-old, “and I’m in love with it every day.”
While doing marketing for a nutrition company, the Orange County native stepped in for an absent photographer on a shoot and became obsessed with honing his craft. He bought a secondhand DSLR camera and started posting his work on Instagram as @BrieWilly, a mashup of his favorite cheese, Brie, and film, Free Willy. His glossy, sexy images attracted followers quickly. Before long, brands like Traeger Grills and Snake River Farms reached out to him.
“I’m always open to doing new things,” he says. “It keeps me in a creative space.”
Montano’s iPhone is now his camera of choice and family is a priority for the father of two. Check out his feed to see how he balances food, fitness and fun, keeping his perspective fresh and his family well fed. The juxtapositions in Montano’s photos — light and dark, soft and hard, movement and stillness — reflect an inner sense of equilibrium that he has always embraced.
“Growing up, we had a balance of fast food and home cooked meals,” he recalls. His mother worked two jobs, so takeout was often all she had time or energy for. But sometimes, his Mexican grandmothers would start mornings by slow-cooking beef and hand-rolling tortillas for the family’s dinner.
“I was asking questions from a young age, spending time in the kitchen,” he says, noting that he helped cook for his younger siblings. Now a dad to two daughters, ages four and nine months, Montano encourages the same culinary exploration in his own kids. “It all starts with the parents. My daughter, since she could walk, is on a stool in the kitchen asking questions and helping,” he says. “Now, she sees food and wants to try it. That curiosity is great.” And while balanced meals are a priority for the fitness enthusiast, he does not deprive his kids of occasional treats like ice cream.
“You gotta enjoy life,” he says. “You can’t just live on a diet."
Oceanside, California, is Montano’s hometown. It’s just a few hours’ drive down the coast from Santa Maria, which has heartily embraced the tri-tip roast since the 1950s. The triangular cut, also known as a Newport or Santa Monica steak, remains a staple of California cuisine.
“I’ve always eaten tri-tip, but there’s nothing like a Snake River Farm's tri-tip,” Montano says. “It has such good marbling.”
He says that even if it’s cooked medium well — which his wife prefers, even if purists consider it a crime — the steak remains tender, juicy and flavorful. As for prep, Montano skips the marinades and opts for traditional California spices: “The SRF Santa Maria rub pairs really well with a tri-tip; it’s usually my go-to.”
Montano cooks a tri-tip low and slow on his Traeger grill at 200°F or 225°F until the internal temp reaches about 115°F or 120°F, depending on the thickness.
Then he goes for a high-heat sear on an old-fashioned cowboy grill. “I’m a sucker for crust,” he says. “It’s a texture thing.”
A hot, close, intense flame chars the outside of the steak, building up a crust and sealing in all that mouth-watering deliciousness.
“Once you get that sliced, you get the tender, juicy middle and salty, crunchy crust from the rub and the high heat…I just love that.”
As an homage to his Mexican heritage, Montano often serves tri-tip in tacos, topped with homemade chimichurri to cut through the rich beefiness. “It’s the easiest thing to make with a steak,” he says. “That fresh element, a little acidity, goes with beef really well. And the kids love it, too.”
Nathan Michael and Julia Flowers share many things: their three kids and a Chicago apartment, of course, but also a deep love of food, photography and creativity. Both had rich life experiences and significant presences on Instagram before they met — Michael as a designer, tech startup developer and community organizer, and Flowers as a wine distributor, caterer, cooking instructor and single mom.
Today, their Instagram feeds are filled with adorable pictures of their kids and mouthwatering images of food. The two make memories by cooking with their family and friends, while also building relationships with brands that align with their ethos of creative authenticity. Though many modern couples meet through dating apps, Flowers says they “met online, but not really.”
Four years ago, Michael was organizing bimonthly meetups for the creative community in Chicago, and Flowers decided to attend one. Each had investigated the other ahead of time “I knew that he was running a creative event space,” Flowers says. “I was intrigued by him.” Michael echoes similar sentiments, “I was intrigued by the way she presented herself online."
He introduced himself to her at the event and knew right away he’d like to see her again. He wanted to wait until the next time they met spontaneously, but knowing it was a long shot, given the constraints of their busy schedules, he used Instagram to his advantage.
“I knew she liked tacos, so I’m going to all these taco places, trying to find a place she hadn’t been,” he says. “When I [found one], I was like, ‘I could take you there.’”
They met for tacos and sparks flew, but the food choice made all the difference. “Street tacos sealed the deal,” Flowers says, noting that they were married less than a year later.
Whether it’s working together on a client project, creating an inventive meal or raising their three kids, Michael and Flowers find deep meaning in cooperative ventures.
“I’ve picked up ways to live life better from people who are passionate about what they do,” says Michael, whose favorite camera is his iPhone, which he prefers over fancy SLRs that he’s tried.
“In my earlier years, I had a harder time because of my perfectionist attitude. I’ve learned to let go and appreciate what other people bring to the table.”
Julia notes that there’s a big difference between forced collaboration — like being assigned to a team for a work or school project — and a more intentional partnership.
“We both know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so each person can fill in those gaps,” she says. “We’re lucky; we get to do all of life together.”
Their visual styles speak to this synergy. Michael favors an eclectic look that mixes highbrow and lowbrow sensibilities.“I like nice things, but nothing’s ever too precious for us.”
Flowers has only ever photographed with a phone and has a similar affinity for capturing unfussy beauty. “I don’t overthink it, even with food styling,” she says. “I’ve found that my best pictures and best meals were when I didn’t overthink and just put it down in the moment.”
2 teaspoons of Maldon Finishing Salt
1/4 teaspoon of
3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly diced
1 freshly juiced lime
Mix salt, chili, and kaffir lime leaves in a small bowl. Squeeze juice from 1 lime into bowl and gently mix. Dip your steak into the mixture and enjoy.
Michael suggests rounding out the Delmonico with a trio of sweet-and-savory sides, such as sweet potato fries, shishito peppers tossed in a honey-miso dressing, and grilled carrots dressed with avocado and mint.
When Nathan Michael was growing up in Texas, grilling was a religion, with every trip to the butcher shop “a feast for the eyes in preparation for a ceremony,” he says.
“When our family discovered Snake River Farms, it felt like discovering the joy of meat for the first time again,” Michael says. “It was so flavorful. Each bite almost better than the last. So when it comes to gathering with friends and family now, SRF is our butcher of choice. They have something for everyone and every occasion.” During the summer, Michael turns to the Delmonico steak, a bone-in, 38 oz. cut that Michael dubs “a piece of pure magic.” This classic steakhouse favorite is heavily marbled, makes a beautiful presentation, and is substantial enough to feed a small dinner party.
Michael prefers to smoke his Delmonico and then reverse sear. The process starts with salting and air drying the steak in the refrigerator for 24 hours. He removes the steak from the fridge 45 minutes before cooking to allow it to come up to room temperature.
He then places it in the smoker at 225°F until the internal temperature hits 120°F, which takes about 45 minutes. Michael then sears the Delmonico over charcoal for 2 to 3 minutes on each side to render the fat cap and crisp the edges. After resting the steak for 10 minutes, Michael cuts the rich fat with zesty acid and heat with this flavored salt dip.