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CURBSiDE CRAViNGS

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October 2011

Fresh Off The Truck

How to Start in the Food Truck World

The 2nd Annual

Street Food Fest 2011

SUCCESSFUL

FOOD TRUCKS

$4.99 US

$5.99 FOR

everything you need to know about starting in the food truck industry


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CURBSIDE_table of contents FEATURES how to open a successful food truck The ins-and-outs on starting your own food truck business and how to maintain it year-round. By Christine Lagorio ............................................................................... 10

fresh off the truck One of LA’s most talked about food trucks, Kogi, is booming more than ever, thanks to Head Chef Roy Choi. By Jessica Gelt ........................................................................ 20

the 2nd annual la street food fest Crowds stand in line for hours to buy tidbits from about 30 of the city’s most popular food trucks. By Martha Groves ...................................................................................... 30

Fresh Off The Truck

The biggest food truck gathering on the West Coast P. 30

P. 20

DEPARTMENTS MOBILE ART Food trucks try to create an enjoyable atmosphere by creating eye catching truck designs. .....................................4

HEADS UP Tips on starting, maintaining, and keeping up with your food truck business. .............................................................6

NEXT IN LINE The newest, best and most unique up & coming food trucks in your area!...............................................................8

LAST CALL.................................................................... 40

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CURBSIDE_DESIGNS

MOBILE ART

Food trucks not only focus on providing excellent food, but also an enjoyable atmosphere and eye catching trucks.

DIM AND DEN SUM

STREET SWEETS

LATIN HOUSE GRILL

CHAIRMAN BAO

Cleveland, OH

New York, NY

Miami, FL

San Francisco, CA

Artist: The Sign Guy 1972

Artist: Landers Miller Design

Artist: The owners and Adwave

Artist: James Jean

Art Concept: “We wanted to keep it fun and Asian inspired,” says Chris Hodgson, a co-owner. “This just fit: It’s funny and [it’s the artist’s] signature drawing style with oversized teeth, so it’s underground art and recognizable. People knew us just from his artwork.”

Art Concept: “[The owners] wanted something bold and fun that would immediately catch people’s eye,” says Rick Landers. “The concept came from the idea of a street map and from the great hand-painted facades of many French pâtisseries that use typography as texture.”

Art Concept: “Having the grill as our main vehicle of cooking, [owner] Michell Sanchez wanted ... fire, but at the same time, she wanted to show detail and perfection, like the food we serve; that’s where the inspiration of the flowered fire came in to play.”

Art Concept: Josh Tang, the co-founder and CEO of Mobi Munch, the company that owns the truck, says that people have accused them of biting Shepard Fairey’s style, but the art was “inspired by Chinese communist propaganda” to play off the Chairman Bao name.

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With so many food trucks cruising around, it’s no surprise that they are starting to get more creative with their art to differentiate themselves The result is some really cool art on wheels.

>Contest Alert: Have food truck entrepreneurs used up all the best ideas already? Or do you have a fresh concept for a food truck you'd be willing to wait in line for? In the spirit of unbridled food truck creativity, our latest GOOD Project wants to know: What would your fantasy food truck serve and look like? Like any food truck, your dream truck needs to have a cool concept and signature dish. What would you call it? What would it serve? We'll compile the best ideas into a slideshow format, and the GOOD community will vote and choose for their favorite. OBJECTIVE: We want to see what's missing from the mobile culinary landscape. Dream up a concept for a food truck that doesn't exist yet.

Name your truck and explain the concept. Then, cook up the signature dish and take a photo If you're culinarily challenged, you can represent your signature dish by drawing it or graphically. REQUIREMENTS: To participate in this competition, please send an e-mail to GOOD inc., projects@ goodinc.com. SUBMISSIONS: Each entry will need to include the following information: 1) name of the truck, 2) a few sentences describing the concept and 3) an image of the signature dish. It can be in any image format, but it should be high enough resolution that it can be printed at 300 dpi. We’ll take submissions now through October 24 and will let the finalist know by November 7.

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CURBSIDE_LIVING

HEADS UP

Tips on starting, maintaining, and keeping up with your food truck business.

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR FOOD TRUCK 1) Plan Your Attack

5) Tip

Most food trucks will send out their locations and schedule on a weekly basis via email or Twitter. Sign up for their emails and have their tweets sent directly to your phone so you'll know of any last minute schedule changes. Go here for a list of street food vendors using Twitter by region.

Most places have a tip jar, don't be afraid to use it. These folks work hard for not a lot of money to bring you fabulous food. Show them some love and part with a couple bucks.

2) Arrive Early If a food truck tweets they will be at a location between 11-2, then get to that location as close to opening time as you can. Most of these trucks are small operations and when they are out of food, they're out of food and you're out of luck and hungry.

3) Pay Cash Some food trucks take credit cards but many do not. Come armed with cash. (remember cash? It's that green stuff that comes out of the ATM, you can exchange it for goods and services.)

4) BYOB Trucks are often serving a limited number of items and drinks are not always on the menu. So pick up a drink before you leave the office.

food truck owners: Do you have professional culinary training?

6) Be Flexible Flow around obstacles such as location, long lines and schedule changes. Menus are always evolving with new food creations, so be prepared/willing to try something new!

7) Smile You're On Camera I've yet to visit a food truck where there wasn't at least one person taking pictures. So if you're in the witness protection program, lying to your boss about being home sick or cheating on your diet, prepare to be photographed in the act.

8) Strike Up A Conversation I'm not asking you to engage in a spirited debate over geopolitical issues but a friendly hello and a smile will go a long way with your fellow food truckers. These are also the people to ask about what's new on wheels and where they've eaten lately. Food truck followers are an obsessive (and well fed) bunch.

32% 68%

NO: 68% YES: 32% We have met and spoken with many owners around the country and found many of them have varied backgrounds. Some have professional culinary training, while others come from a more white collar industry.

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CURBSIDE_NEWS

NEXT IN LINE The newest, best and most unique up & coming food trucks in your area!

TRUCK

CITY

MENU

BADA BING @badabingdc

WASH, D.C.

A variety of spiedie sandwiches are available including the namesake “The Bing” with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil aioli and “Joey’s Special” with a BBQ glaze, sharp cheddar, bacon and lettuce.

BUTTER MILK TRUCK @buttermilktruck

LOS ANGELES

Buttermilk Truck takes pride in making Buttermilk biscuits and assorted breakfast pastries, like pancakes, waffles, and donut batters, from scratch and baked daily and cooked to order

BIG GAY ICE CREAM TRUCK @biggayicecream

NEW YORK CITY

Soft serve ice cream topped with our own eclectic menu, such as Crushed Nilla Wafers, Fresh Berries & Saba, Pumpkin Butter, Dulce de Leche and Key Lime Curd and much more.

MEATYBALLS MOBILE @fossfoodtrucks

CHICAGO

Enjoy sandwiches like the “BBQ Balls” with pulled pork shoulder, red cabbage, apples, and cola-bourbon BBQ sauce, the “Chicago Style Lobster Balls” with lobster, tomatoes, peppers, and saffron sauce.

{Quick Tips}

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FOLLOW your favorite food truck online through Twitter, Facebook, and their own websites. ARRIVE early: Lines will get long very quickly, so plan ahead so you can beat the lunchtime rush. ENJOY the food and friendly service provided by each truck and help support the owners by tipping them!

Chef Talk One chef riding the food truck wave is Tai Lee, known more commonly as Chef Tai. His Mobile Gourmet Food Truck, which is based in College Station, Texas, was recently named “America’s Favorite Food Truck” during a contest run by the popular television specialty channel Food Network. Lee said social networks aided his bid to

be named America’s Favorite Food Truck, largely because of a large network of Texas A&M alumni helped spread the word online that his truck was in the competition. “I opened the food truck to share my passion and love for the food with more people at a much lower price of entrance,” said the Korean-born chef, who

has no formal culinary education. Lee said his Korean heritage played a big role in his own recipes. He described it as a fusion of several Asian cuisines with a southern twist. He said his family loves to cook and try out new foods, and that as a kid, he was taken to a lot of different restaurants in Korea.

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HOW TO

OPEN A Successful

FOOD TRUCK

You’re not exactly ahead of the curve if you think vending specialty food out of a van could be your big meal ticket. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it big by betting on a banh mi bus or churro cart. Street food in New York & Los Angeles took a decidedly foodie turn in 2008, when gourmet trucks such as Rickshaw Dumpling Bar and The Dessert Truck, founded by a former Le Cirque pastry sous chef, started parking on the Manhattan streets. Formerly, lunch from a to-go cart might entail a greasy, mixed-meat kabob, a shriveled hot dog, or a stale pretzel. Today, the state of the cart is healthy, and increasingly high-end.

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/christine lagorio


Call it a COAST-TO-COAST surge of mobilized chefs, taking street eats to the next level. 12

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he most successful food trucks are super-social-media savvy, with a loyal following that will meet them at any urban curb. Still, if you think you’ve got what it takes to serve meals on wheels, there are plenty of factors to consider first, the least of which should not be geography. While New York has no available vendor permits and Portland’s food-truck market is already quite crowded (Multnomah County has nearly 400 food carts, according to the Portland Oregonian), other mid-sized cities look ripe for entrepreneurs. When Scott Baitinger opened Streetza Pizza in Milwaukee, WI, last year with Steve Mai, the pair was virtually alone as street vendors – so much that a local insurance agent had to create a policy

to cover their previously unheard-of business. This year, Milwaukeeans seem to expect a snack truck to be parked outside Water Street bars during the late hours of the night. Does sliding hand-tossed pizza topped with veggies grown by friends into and out of a mobile pizza oven all day sound like a dream? Well, Baitinger still has a 60-hour-a week day job, and no plans to leave it. New vendors cite considerable start-up hurdles, such as getting proper licensing, funding a kitchen and truck, mastering social networking, and staying profitable through off seasons. Ready to confront those obstacles and give a culinary venture a go? We’ve compiled stories and advice from entrepreneurs who have pioneered successful food carts, in hopes that it


will help jump start new careers and businesses across the country, as well as informing people about food trucks.

Buy a Truck; Rent a Kitchen.

So, you have a killer idea for a food truck. If you’re thinking something fresh and hearty, something already sold on the streets of another country, or something sweet, it’s likely you’re on the right track. As with almost any entrepreneurial endeavor, securing financing should be one of your first goals. Online forums and sales sites can help you determine your costs. If you want to start small, a standard, used hot dog style cart costs about $2,000 to buy, while refurbished trucks for driving and vending can run more than $40,000. That high price tag is usually due to local health department

specifications, which any truck that serves food must comply with and be refurbished to meet. Before you buy, though, assess your needs. The less you need your truck to do, and the smaller it can be, the cheaper it will be. Cody Fields, a former engineer who built wastewater treatment plants, launched his Austin empanada truck, Mmmpanadas, in early 2008. He started small by cooking his empanadas at home and selling a few dozen at a time to local bars and coffee shops. But he found serious expenses involved in expanding to a truck. “You can spend $20,000 in buying your initial truck,” he says. “I would recommend people think about going with a smaller cart–something that’s not a full mobile truck or mobile kitchen, starting small and working your way up. ”

In New York or Los Angeles, where food carts are most popular, it might be possible to purchase a truck previously used by a vendor. Used is advisable, especially because acquiring and retrofitting a new truck can cost $75,000 to $100,000, according to a foodtruck analysis by New York Magazine. Vending windows, lined walls and floors, electricity, hot running water and a retail payment system are all necessary, so even if you find, say, an appropriate-sized old DHL step van for sale for $10,000, the retrofitting will be a significant expense. Food carts generally have the same health and safety requirements as restaurants, so you can expect regular inspections for fire and health issues. In designing the truck, you’ll have to decide whether you’ll be cooking most of the food on-scene, or simply using the

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“At first, people were trying to keep us away from their brick- and-mortar establishments, and now they want us.�

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“Despite the new regulations, owning a mobile business still has many advantages, including comparatively low overhead.”

truck as a retail and storage space. considerable prep work, but can be easily Empanadas, for instance, take stored and sold. Same goes for cupcakes or pastries. Tacos and pizza, on the other hand, need to be freshly assembled on the spot. For Baitinger and Mai, fitting their truck with a functional pizza oven was the most difficult part of starting Streetza. They had purchased electric appliances for the truck, including a full-service pizza oven, before realizing that a generator to run it all wouldn’t even fit in the truck. “We went through a comedy of errors, and still have an extra pizza oven we purchased sitting in my garage,” Baltinger says.

Get Your Paperwork & Permits Under Control.

A mobile restaurant doesn’t have the same permitting process as a brick-and-mortar establishment. Nor does it have to pay traditional rent. But there are some other costs and logistics to consider. Insurance. This shouldn’t run you much more than regular vehicle insurance, but do make clear to your underwriter any additional risks your truck might pose. For example, you might want to mention that you carry five propane tanks or have an open flame in your vehicle. Permit acquisition. Although necessary permits vary based on locality, in New York, a vendor needs a Mobile Food Vendor License and any vending vehicle needs to be equipped with a Mobile Food Vending Unit Permit. Securing a truck permit can be tough; certain cities, including New York, have a cap on the number of permits in existence at one time. It’s not unlike the market for liquor licenses, experts say, with a waiting list that can run more than 10 years, according to the Street Vendor Project. While renting or buying a permit on the black market is illegal, inspectors have been known to turn a blind eye once a permit is in a vendor’s hands. Cooking and preparation facilities. Even though plenty of mobile restaurants and bakeries can be started out of a home kitchen, consider the possible future need for extra facilities. When Lev

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Ekster launched his CupcakeStop truck last year, he hired a baker and rented a Brooklyn kitchen space only for evenings, which kept costs down. Since then, he’s expanded to a full baking facility, which he’s combining with an office and storefront in New Jersey. Truck storage and evening security. Some cities’ departments of health require that vending vehicles be stored in approved commissary locations when not on duty. Expect to pay for parking, including electricity and refrigeration. Parking. If you’re planning on parking– anywhere, really–you’ll need permission. Baitinger recommends befriending local city council representatives and establishment owners before choosing regular spots. In metropolitan areas, neighborhood associations can be helpful partners. For special events or privately owned areas, though, you might have to pay for a good location.

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Master a Location and Build a Good Following.

Buzz is a huge part of what makes a foodtruck launch successful. With social media allowing vendors to distribute exclusivefeeling information about their location or daily specials, the best newly launched trucks strike a fine balance between elusiveness and consistency. Not everyone who might want a burger is following the tweets of New York vendor Frites ‘n’ Meats. But if they know the truck usually serves dinner at a particular corner, they can find it. When choosing a location, vendors should pay special attention to exceptions to vending rules on local park property, and be careful to stay away from competing brick-and-mortar establishments. Milwaukee’s Streetza truck, for example, had trouble gaining acceptance from local bars and restaurants due to fear it might drive business away.

Too many trucks

are only using Facebook to promote their locations and not to engage their customers. “In the last year, everything has taken a 180-degree turn,” Baltinger says. “At first, people were trying to keep us away from their brick-and-mortar establishments, and now they want us. Still, we will never park within 500 feet of a pizza restaurant, because just ethically that does not seem right or fair.” In addition to Tweeting locations and specials, Streetza crowd sources menu ideas, and held a Twitter vote on their truck design. And Baitinger is thankful for the synergy: “As much as Twitter has given to us, I try to give back to it. I give plenty of praise, and I even found my accountant on Twitter!” Every city seems to have a distinct vibe. In L.A., there’s more of a swoop-inand-serve-em-up-quickly feel. Take the tweet a new location, be met by a swarm of famed Kogi Korean BBQ truck, which will 40 hungry fans, serve, and then take off for a new spot. In New York, vendors tend to make a schedule and stick to it. In Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wisconsin, carts and trucks gravitate to the same area, forming something of an outdoor food court, or maybe a trailer park that happens to vend cheap lunch. If you make the decision to be a highly mobile vendor, you’ll want to use Facebook and Twitter early to cultivate a loyal customer base. Baitinger says Twitter is a key to his business success, estimating that 70% of his sales can be directly tied to social media. “It’s not always someone who’s on Twitter,” he says, “but it’s someone who is who said something to a friend.” “At a core level, we use Twitter to broadcast our location, as well as pushing stories about the people who eat our pizza.” Baitinger says.


Waiting in line at Schnitzel & Things, to get their famous Veal Schnitzel

Opening a Food Truck: Branch Out to Stay Profitable.

Even at the most modest outset of your fledgling business, think about what you really want to create for yourself. “Creating a food truck, and a job for yourself is fairly easy to do,” says Fields of Mmmpanadas. “Creating a business is much more difficult.” Ekster’s CupcakeStop truck is available for events, and he does a lot of corporate store openings, such as Victoria’s Secret, and bar/bat mitzvahs. He tends to book the truck on evenings, so after it is done selling to the workday crowd in Manhattan, it can head out to Long Island for a party. And that income helps make the business model sustainable. “You can make more money selling cupcakes outside than at an event, only an event is guaranteed,” Ekster says.

Events are a reliable source of income for many new street vendors, and so is catering. The Streetza partners discovered this when offices started ordering their pizzas for lunch, because there weren’t fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza choices readily available in downtown Milwaukee. Online sales are another promising arena for less-perishable food products, as well as t-shirts, and other novelty products. Distribution to coffee shops,

grocery stores, and other vendors is another option. That’s exactly where Mmmpanadas is going. The company is already distributing empanadas, and is beginning to supply them to Whole Foods locally this month. “We’re trying to create our wholesale business, but the truck only helps with that. It’s a moving, 20-foot-long billboard for us, that increases visibility and gets our name out there,” Fields says.

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Fresh Off The Truck Where Korean and Mexican food meet

/jessica gelt 20

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The Kogi truck is a traveling Los Angeles landmark that serves up Korean Mexican tacos, day and night. Spicy Pork Tacos, Kimchi Quesadillas and Short Rib Sliders satiate the hungry mouths of people who crave excellent food on a dime budget. Quality Korean barbecue meets traditional, homemade tortillas and fresh veggies to create a taste that carries the rhythms of LA street culture and exudes the warmth of all that California sun.

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I

t started with a 4 a.m. glass of Champagne and a carne asada taco after a night of bar hopping. Thirty-yearold Mark Manguera was sitting with his 25-year-old sister-in-law, Alice Shin (his wife Caroline was already sleeping soundly), when the taste of L.A.’s most ubiquitous street food caused him to have a drunken revelation. “I’m biting into my taco and it dawned on me, ‘Alice, wouldn’t it be great if someone put Korean barbecue on a taco?,’ “ recalls Manguera, who is Filipino but married into a Korean family. Most people would have left it at that, maybe recounting their brilliant idea ad nauseum to friends at dinner parties, but Manguera followed through. He got a truck from taco-truck Goliath Cater

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Craft, he brought in former RockSugar chef Roy Choi as a partner, and he enlisted friends and family to begin blogging, branding and Twittering on his behalf. The result: The Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck. (@kogibbq on Twitter) After celebrating a Nov. 20 soft opening, the roving vehicle has emerged as a socialnetworking juggernaut, drawing 300 to 800 people each time it parks (often several times in an evening) and spawning a burgeoning cyber-hippie movement affectionately referred to as “Kogi kulture.” The truck and its staff of merry makers have become a sort of roving party, bringing people to neighborhoods they might not normally go to, and allowing for interactions with strangers they might not otherwise talk to. A constant

Twitter feed connects truck-followers and updates them about whether Kogi is going to be late to its next stop. Occasionally, a negative Nelly will rain on this love parade byasking the Kogi truck to park elsewhere; when this happens, legions of Kogi-lytes rally to find a desirable new location. On a recent Thursday night, Kogi (pronounced with a hard “g”) parked at 5:30 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum on Central Avenue and 1st Street in Little Tokyo. By 7 p.m., the truck had already served at least 400 people and a long line still snaked across the broad brick entrance to the museum. Nearby, DJ Akaider cranked dance music and reggaeton. Manguera says he asked Akaider to participate that evening out of appreciation for a YouTube video the DJ made about eating at Kogi called


2 1. A Kogi Special: short rib sandwich with a Kimchi slaw on top, toasted to perfection. 2. Kogi Kimchi Quesadilla with crisp and chewy flour tortillas covered with a sesame-chili salsa roja. 3. A Kogi Favorite: short rib tacos with julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chilisoy vinaigrette.

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A group of people waiting in line to eat a late night snack.

“I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THIS HAPPENED, BUT I AM THANKFUL FOR IT ALL AND EXCITED FOR THE FUTURE.” “Chasing the Dragon (The Kogi BBQ Adventure).” In the video (which has been viewed more than 2,000 times), Akaider is seen driving through Silver Lake trying to find the “elusive” Kogi truck. He eats a Korean hot dog with kimchi sauerkraut and takes a spicy pork taco home for his dad. Those in the slow-moving line are appreciative of the musical distraction. Milady Flores and her friends Courtney

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Morofuji and Doug Wu stand near the front of the line. They have been waitingfor an hour (by the time they get their tacos it will have been nearly two hours). They are giggling because a drunken girl has slipped them $10 to buy her three tacos. Tacos cost $2 each, so that’s a $4 profit for them (or two free tacos). They don’t mind waiting, though. “If you’re expecting it, it’s OK,” Morofuji says. And it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone in line is expecting it.

L.A. Phenom So, how did this happen, and what kind of magic resides in a Kogi taco? Maybe it’s the power of juicy meat; flavored with slightly spicy, delicately tangy Korean “salsa roja,” topped with cilantro and onions as well as cabbage slaw with soy-sesame chili, and cupped in a soft corn tortilla, it can taste awfully good,

especially when your stomach has spent two hours priming. Or perhaps it’s the exquisite cultural co-mingling inherent in the food that draws crowds; the onlyin-L.A. combination of two of the city’s most beloved ethnic cuisines. Maybe it’s the thrill of being a part of the rogue movements and flash mobs created through the power of today’s many instantaneous modes of communication. Sitting on the museum steps with his legs crossed and a diminutive Yorkshire terrier named Diesel in his lap, Manguera looks with bewilderment at the line in front of Kogi and offers this: “I have no idea how this happened, but I am thankful for it all and excited for the future.” Recently he’s been overwhelmed by a flash flood of investment solicitations, as well as many offers to cater high-profile special events and parties Beginning in about a week, Kogi will take over the kitchen at David Reiss’


Kogi Chef, Roy Choi

Alibi Room, effectively establishing the brand’s first bricks-and-mortar location. Cedd Moses’ 213 group has expressed interest in accomplishing something similar with Kogi in downtown L.A. “SBE called me yesterday,” Manguera says, referring to the entertainment group owned by the he-man of L.A. night life, Sam Nazarian, and adding, “I admire the guy. He’s brought in a group of people who know better than him, and that’s the key to good business. When they called, I was like, ‘Now I’m happy.’ “ Manguera, too, has brought in a group of people who know better than him. By his own admission, he is not very tech-savvy. “The most I know about the online world is my Google mail and my MySpace,” he says. That’s where his sister-in-law Alice Shin comes in handy. She blogs incessantly for Kogi using the upbeat, LOL-speak that drives online dialogue. Her post about the recent

launch of a second Kogi truck reads: “Kogi headquarters is totally preggers and is giving birth to a new baby truck... So I’m leaving it to YOU, the peoples to nominate names for our trucks, because at this rate, Roy’s gonna be calling Big Brah KoGi #1 and Mark’s gonna be caLLing the new one KoGi #2, which, frankLy, is way BORING.” Names poured in from fans; an early favorite was “Kogi Juan Kenogi,” but the crew settled on the more prosaic Kogi Roja and Kogi Verde—though they’re still not sure which truck will be which. Shin also runs the truck’s Twitter feed, which, as it turns out, is a transnational endeavor. Because Kogi draws such massive crowds, it usually runs late. When that happens, Manguera calls Shin in Brooklyn, and Shin puts out a Twitter feed notifying those waiting of the truck’s delay.

Family Affair The other key players on the Kogi carousel? Manguera’s wife, Caroline, who as a food, beverage and hospitality specialist with Four Seasons hotels knows how to keep a crowd calm and make people feel special (she also knows how to keep Kogi’s books); Caroline’s brother Eric Shin, who obsessively photographs the truck’s cross-county journeys (from Rosemead to Westwood to Mid-Wilshire and more); Eric’s best friend Mike Prasad (another twentysomething social networking and branding wunderkind); Caroline’s cousin Young Ho Yoo, who acts as the truck’s promoter; and finally, 38-year-old chef Roy Choi himself, who sees his place in the group as that of culinary guru — a sort of post-Abstract Expressionist food artist. “This is my graffiti,” says Choi, who insists that up until now his life story

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“IT’S ABOUT WORKING YOUR ASS OFF, AND NOT BELIEVING THAT YOU’RE ANY GOOD.”

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Mark Manguera and new waitress, Kelly Shaw, discussing the different plates offered at the new restaurant, Chego.

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(despite its many highs) has been one of failure. Born to Korean immigrant parents, Choi struggled to find his place, toying with law school before stumbling into the world of the palate. He worked in restaurants in New York and Palm Desert before being invited to work in the kitchen of “Iron Chef ” Rokusaburo Michiba in Japan. When Manguera contacted Choi he was at a crossroads, having left a cushy chef de cuisine job at the Beverly Hilton Hotel (where he cooked for then-Sen. Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen and the royal family of Dubai) and most recently moving on after helping open RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen in Century City.

“Kogi Headquarters is preggers and giving birth to a new baby trucK...” “It’s not Korean food,” Choi says of Kogi. “It’s a Korean American kid translating the food from his country into the present-day life of L.A. It’s everything I see: the Latinos working in the Korean market, the bus that I ride.” Choi introduces nightly specials to the menu (like the barbecue sliders and chorizo and egg tacos). Once people have waited in line, they tend to order a lot, pushing the average check near $20, compared to the typical $5. When they finally sink their teeth into the muchhyped fare, are they disappointed? For the most part, the answer is no (though many in line say they wouldn’t make it a habit). After a two-hour wait in Little Tokyo, Doug Wu and his friends walk away with a large bag. Wu stops to bite into a taco as his friends look on anxiously. Wu scrunches his face in displeasure. “This is disgusting,” he says. His friends look deflated, then he smiles broadly, juice dripping down his forearm. “Ha! No, it’s really good!”

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From Truck to Restaurant Chef Roy Choi is standing in front of the restaurant space he closed on a day ago. It’s a 10-table, bare-bones dive, with the previous operators’ pen-drawn signs for $4.95 entrees hanging in the windows in a small West Los Angeles strip mall. Mr. Choi says he plans to open in late February. He and his partners have decided not to redecorate. “Come back here in May,” he says. “There will be pandemonium in this parking lot. Cars backed up 20 deep.” From any other chef, the prediction would seem ludicrous. But Roy Choi has achieved unlikely success before. Now, the 39-year-old, Tupac Shakur-quoting chef is aiming to prove that his street-food success was no fluke and that his unique culinary persona—part flavor-fusion visionary, part classically trained chef, part street rebel—can change the future of food.

Soon after Kogi’s launch, Korean tacos began popping up everywhere. In June, the Baja Fresh chain, with about 280 units, put a “Baja Kogi taco” on a test menu after meeting with Mr. Choi and his partners several times to discuss a possible partnership. (The chain did not end up making a partnership deal with Kogi. In July, the chain changed the name of its menu item to “Baja Gogi.” Mr. Choi waxes rhapsodic about the taco. “When you eat it, it tells the story about a city,” he says. For $2, he adds, people who might not be able to afford fine dining get a taste of food made with expertise, creativity and, he says, love. “There is something very Korean about Roy being Roy,” says David Chang of New York’s Momofuku restaurants, who is also of Korean heritage. “It’s about working your ass off, and not believing that you’re any good.”


Kogi Style Korean Tacos

Korean Tacos: Kogi-Style (Cook Time: 45 min. Makes 10-15 Tacos) kogi-style korean bbq short ribs:

3 pounds flanken-style beef short ribs 1 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup sesame oil 6 cloves garlic 2 teaspoon. fresh peeled ginger korean-style slaw:

3 1 6 1 2 1 1

cups Napa cabbage, chopped cup daikon, diced into matchsticks scallions, diced lime, juiced tablespoons soy sauce tablespoon mirin tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

for assembly:

10-15 yellow corn tortillas Sriracha

1.

Begin by cutting off excess fat from the short ribs. You can also remove the membrane under the bone side of the rib. Place in a large flat dish or in a zip-top bag.

2.

In a food processor, blend together soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, sesame oil, garlic, scallions and ginger. Reserve 1/2 cup of sauce and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Pour the rest of the sauce over the short ribs. Seal tightly and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

3.

To prepare the slaw: Place Napa cabbage, daikon, spouts, scallions and cilantro together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, mirin and sriracha. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

4.

Reduce the extra marinade ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring

occasionally, until the mixture is thick. Place in a serving bowl to drizzle on tacos.

5.

Heat your grill to 550째 F or so**. The intent here is to flash cook the meat while simultaneously caramelizing the marinade. Place your short ribs on the grill. Cook for three minutes and flip. Cook an additional three minutes, wrap in foil and set aside.

6.

Lower grill heat to medium. Place corn tortillas on the grill. Flip after 45 seconds. Grill for another 45 seconds and remove.

7.

Cut short ribs into strips, avoiding the bones. Assemble your Korean tacos: Corn tortilla, barbecued short ribs, a drizzle of Korean barbecue sauce, Napa cabbage slaw and extra sriracha to match your tastes. Serve immediately. **If you are doing chicken, you will want to lower the heat and extend the cooking time.

October 17, 2011

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October 17, 2011


The 2 Annual nd

L.A. Street Food Fest 2011

This food fest started not only to fill a gap in the local foodie and events scene with a delicious good time, but to create community and a platform to support independent small business owners. For that reason, all of the events aim to do much more than just entertain.

/martha groves October 17, 2011

31


T

ickets to each of these sessions are $60, and are all inclusive. Admission includes samples from the food vendors, free parking, beer at two Singha beer gardens, cocktails from Sailor Jerry Rum, Leblon Cachaca and Camarena Tequila, cold beverages, a tequila tent offering tastings and lessons, the “Ice Cream Social” section, live demos from chefs, tunes from DJ Bryan Davidson, kids activities during the day, and voting in the People’s Choice Award. VIP admission, at $75, includes all that regular admission offers, plus access to a tented VIP lounge hosted by Test Kitchen featuring a private bar with Julian Cox and Hendricks Gin, special chef ’s bites and a massage station from Dr Kevin. There will be only 200 VIP tickets are available per session. Alerted by Facebook, Twitter and plain old word of salivating mouth, foodies by the thousands descended Saturday on downtown LA for the “2nd annual” LA Street Food Fest.

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October 17, 2011


“WE WANTED TO SHOW THE PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES THAT THEY ARE PART OF A GREAT, UPSCALE FOOD COMMUNITY.”

October 17, 2011

33


“We hope that you will join us in en

time, while also supporting the loc

34

October 17, 2011


njoying fantastic food and a great cal community and LA’s economy!�

October 17, 2011

35


By midday, the line of eager epicures extended for blocks along South Beaudry Avenue, outside the grounds of Los Angeles Center Studios, and the wait to buy a $5 entry ticket was two hours. Once inside, the hordes queued up again to grab tidbits for a dollar or two or three from about 30 of the city’s most popular food trucks, among them Flying Pig, Fishlips Sushi, Komodo, Frysmith and Coolhaus. Such mobile food has soared in popularity since the now-legendary Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck hit the streets in late 2008. Now brightly colored trucks offer a mind-boggling array of fare, including hot dogs made with grass-fed organic beef, eco-friendly hamburgers, architectural ice cream sandwiches, sushi rolls, vegan sausages and all sorts of Kogiinspired “fusion” tacos. Oddly enough, Kogi was not in attendance. Brothers Jonathan and Sal Witty, 26 and 32, drove an hour from their homes in Rancho Cucamonga and Aliso Viejo to be among the first in line at the Dogzilla booth for mini-dogs topped with soba

36

October 17, 2011

noodles or spicy furikake seasoning. Dogzilla chefs wore bright green T-shirts featuring a wiener-devouring monster (Godzilla, get it?). “We live to eat,” said co-founder Martin Tse, who grew up in a Bay Area restaurant family and met his Dogzilla partner, Bac Dang, while a student at UC Irvine. They were in good company. Kenny Yowell and his wife, Nickie Malave, owners of the Cabo Taco Baja Grill restaurant in La Mirada, came from Whittier after seeing on Facebook and Yelp that the street food festival “had blown up all over.” Many in the crowd continued the social networking as the festival progressed. Elliot Golan, 26, of Woodland Hills, author of the FlavorChaser blog, posted to Twitter as he waited in the snaking line at the Grilled Cheese Truck. President and chef Dave Danhi, aka the Big Cheese, worried that he and partner Michele Grant might just run out of food. This was even though “we bought all the cheese — there’s no more left in town,”

said Danhi, who previously worked as a chef at the Roxbury, Georgia and the Water Grill. After all, a mobile eatery can hold only so much. Not far from Danhi’s melting cheese, festival attendee Farhan Mahmood, 26, stood guard over an array of food-filled paper plates. His group of a dozen friends had split up into pairs, each armed with $20, and divvied up the trucks so they could all sample as much as possible. With waits at the most popular trucks extending to two hours or longer, choices had to be made. Mahmood conceded that it was “a little crazy” to stand in line, given that food trucks show up almost everywhere. But, he added, it was “cool to see the energy downtown.” “We wanted to show L.A. people they are part of a great, upscale Los Angeles food community,” said Sonja Rasula, who planned the event with Shawna Dawson. Rasula said part of the proceeds from the entry tickets would be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.


One of the many delicious samples available for tasting.

October 17, 2011

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MAP OF THE 2011 STREET FOOD FEST:

LUXE ENTRANCE

S&

TRUCKS AND L

TRUCK

UNCHEROS

COMMUNITY VILLAGE DRINKS

BAJA CHEFS ICE CREAM SOCIAL

SINGHA BEER GARDEN

RESTA

URAN

ENTER/EXIT

38

October 17, 2011

TS, CH

EFS, S

TAND S

, AND

CART

S


FOOD FEST SESSIONS: 9a - 1p: Picnic in the Park (All Ages; 1500 people) 2p - 5p: Family Fun Day (Family Friendly; 1500 people) 6p - 9p: Date Night (21 & older; 1500 people)

ROS

E LUNCH

OH SNAP! PHOTO BOOTH

TEQUILA TASTING TENT

SINGHA BEER GARDEN SAILOR JERRY

LUXE LOUNGE

October 17, 2011

39


CURBSIDE_CRAVINGS

LAST CALL

An interview with Marko Pavlinovic, owner of “Mangia Mangia Mobile,” an Italian Food Truck.

CIAO, MY NAME IS MARKO PAVLINOVIC. WE PUT THE SAME PASSION IN FOOD AS OUR ANCESTORS DID BACK HOME IN ITALY. USING THE FINEST INGREDIENTS WE CREATE SPECTACULAR ITALIAN CLASSICS.

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October 17, 2011

Q: Why did you open a food truck? A: After dreaming about having my own restaurant for many years, I saw food trucks becoming popular and decided to open my own and make it like a little restaurant on wheels. Before, I was working as a waiter, but due to the economy, I ended up losing my job so I caught the “bouncing ball”, and launched my truck in almost a heartbeat! I was born and raised in Italy from a Croatian family where cooking was the major thing we were concerned about. Life is better after a good home made meal!

Q: How do you come up with menu items? A: My menu items are easy to select, no brainer, Italian food is history and culture for me, what I eat at home is want I want my customers to enjoy, that’s why I do a 5-course dinner (for $20) every Thursday night at 57 Degrees wine shop…to deliver the Italian experience to my customers. Q: What’s the best reaction someone has had to your food? A: The best one so far was when my friend said….”I just had an orgasm in my mouth” Fughetta bout it!

Q: What’s the best part about running this business and what is your biggest challenge? A: The best part about running this business is seeing the happy faces that my food indulge to my clients, my biggest challenge is LIFE, the one I chose is a tough one; my family is all back in Europe and I moved to U.S. on my own to chase my own dream. I love and miss my family but doing what I am doing pays back all off my feeling especially because of the town I live in…. BEAUTIFUL SAN DIEGO!

Q: What would you say is your most popular item? A: My most popular item is for sure chicken parmigiana panini followed right behind by meatballs panini and my Mangia burger. Q: What is something “off the wall” that you would love to put on your menu? A: Something I would love to make on the truck but I am not sure people would order is Spaghetti alla carbonara (raw eggs, pancetta, parmigiano and pecorino). Raw eggs might not be so popular around here.


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Curbside Cravings  

C2, short for Curbside Cravings, is a monthly publication dedicated to food trucks across America. This publication is geared towards the a...

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