6 am always felt so far away. Our crew was only three. We had our window person, grill person, and cold line. We had music blasting and a huge crowd outside. It’s 1:30 in the morning. What are we doing? Well it’s 2014 and we are working downtown on the Chi’lantro food truck. We are known as one of the best at what we do. Kimchi fry after Kimchi fry taco after taco. You dream about it. This is what we did. This is what we loved.
At this time in Austin there were not as many food trucks as there are now. These days you can drive a mile and pass 20. Each of them has their own unique style with their own flare, and a small following. But in 2014 the food truck scene was just beginning its boom. Or at least we felt like it was. Trucks like Peached Tortilla, Kebabalicious, Torchy’s, East Side King and Chi’lantro were leading the pack on the movement of the food truck scene. Every weekend night, large event, festival or even just for lunch we were the trucks you went to.
The scene now is so different. In one park you can find tacos, BBQ, Asian, shawarma, and ice cream. So many choices. How do you find what you are looking for? Or how do you know which trucks will make you sick? Hopefully I can shed some light on how to judge which ones will be your best bet. In Austin we have the luxury of having pretty much every type of food out there. Someone has a truck or trailer that specializes in the type of cuisine you are craving.
What I have learned after all these years is that no restaurant follows the health code exactly. Some cut corners. They make it work. Is that bad? Of course it is, but that’s this part of the industry. You pretty much take a gamble with your stomach. Here are some tips that I hope help you find a clean/healthy place to eat:
Try and find a place that has a passion for what they do. As a chef, when you have passion for what you do you take pride in every step of your process. You take pride in knowing that you have the cleanest truck in Austin. Your prep space is clean. The low boys are clean, and your product is fresh. You’re proud of what you are putting out to your customers. You want to be known as the truck that is spotless. When we had the trucks at Chi’lantro it was part of our opening procedures to clean the truck. I find it odd that most trucks these days do not do this everyday.
As far as where to find the craving you are looking for. Well, I can’t really help you there. It’s up to you what you want. But, one thing that I will say is to be adventurous. Try out different restaurants. Try out the new trucks that just opened up. I find it so interesting that a lot of people want to go to the new restaurant openings. The new ‘cool place’. The place that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a new truck, but then they have no passion behind it, or any idea what they are doing. With what I do as a consultant I run into people who want to start a business, or have already started one. They open a truck and have no restaurant experience. Then they wonder why they have failed. We recently interviewed a truck. The owners are a married couple with over 30 combined years of restaurant experience. They have a chance. They have passion. A love for what they do. I know they will figure out the secret to how to be successful in this industry. In this city. Visit Crossroads on Barton Springs and Lamar. Tell them I sent you. Eat the burger and thank me later.
A lot of food trucks have a hard time with cost. Most people stay away from trucks with higher price points. One thing that you need to remember is this. If they advertise that they are farm to fork, or serve high quality meat. then that is the reason why that burger is $14. That is also the reason why it tastes so good. Take the time to spend a little more for a better quality item. Instagram, Facebook and Yelp are also great avenues to find a great new place to eat. But also remember that most of the people posting on these sites are just everyday people. They take great pictures that have funny taglines. And there is nothing wrong with these bloggers. I love them as well. Two of my favorites are somuchlifeblog and sushigirl_atx. I love both of their Instagrams and blogs. The food truck scene in this town is amazing. Take a chance on someone new.
As I look at it now I can’t help but to think of the old days. What it was like to work long days with little pay. But loving what I do can be hard. It is a hard lifestyle. It’s not meant for everyone. So when you find a truck or trailer that has been doing this for years know that they love it and have a passion for it. These days I sit in front of a computer working with new restaurants to help them build what I was once a part of. Or I help a food truck having a hard time finding an identity. It’s a different lifestyle. It’s a different mindset. But I can still hold my own in any kitchen on any food truck. I have a passion for what I do. For what I love and how I do it. Food is my life. I hope that with this journey Ainsley and I are taking you will gain trust in us. That you love what we are sharing. We want to show the best and worst of this city. It’s the city we love.