It has been such an eventful and exciting week that I haven't had the opportunity to sit down and share. To start, I recently visited Emergency Mobile Kitchens (EMK) over in Phoenix to discuss with President and CEO John Andrews about helping increase their business through promotions on my website. To me, this is quite an opportunity because (1) this company deals highly with customized mobile and modular kitchens, which is great for anyone looking to start a food truck business, and (2) it is in a field that I have a deep passion for. A passion that I know will be a great asset for their company.
From small food trailers to restroom/shower facilities to emergency response trailers, all I can say is that every project that EMK takes on is truly a "perfect fit" for anyone that is looking for custom mobile kitchen to get their food service off the ground. I am truly looking forward to getting started in helping, as John Andrews said, "spread their gospel" and to help acquire more business for their company.
Next, I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas to attend the Foodie Festival that is held twice a year. To be in a festival with roughly 40 food trucks from Los Angeles, Las Vegas and, of course, Phoenix is truly my definition of heaven on earth for die hard foodie. And since it lasted for three whole days, it was more than enough to help pace my appetite. It is definitely worth the trip if you are a serious foodie/food truck/street food enthusiast, like myself, and it was a big opportunity, for me, to be able to network with a group of enthusiastic food truck owners on the West Coast. I am really looking forward to going back again in the Spring.
During the festival, I met Kari of Mother Truckin' Tees, a store specializing in street food promotional apparel. Apart from doing shirts for food trucks, she told me that she also does shirts for food bloggers across the country. I thought that would be an awesome idea for me to have my own line of shirts to promote Food Truck Junkie as well as to promote local food trucks in Phoenix and all over the country. So, I'm currently working on designs to that represent "FTJ" and the street food community and, hopefully, have it up and running before the next festival in April. As soon as the shirts are available, I will definitely be posting a link to the store.
Right now, check out Mother Truckin' Tees at www.mothertruckintees.com to see some of their awesome shirts and gear they have!
As you can see, a lot going on in the world of "FTJ" at the moment but this is what I love to do. Look forward to seeing what other opportunities will present themselves. Keep on truckin', friends!
~The Food Truck Junkie
A while ago, I posted a blog entry about my future plans of starting my own food truck business, The Deep Friar, specializing in loaded French Fries. What's the status right now, you ask? Our dream is still very much active. My cousin, Mike, and I have got together a couple times to test out recipes, determine fry times and conduct tastings with close friends and family. Up to this point, we have decided on concept, design, our menu and determined our food costs.
But, like every start up business, we have hit a road block. Funding to get our food truck has been a major issue, since I'm still on disability and my cousin, at the moment, stated to me he's living paycheck-to-paycheck. It's an issue we both knew we were going to face at one point but we are taking it in stride. We have big support from our family, friends and members of the food truck community and we hope to one day be out on the road sometime soon.
To my Cousin Mike: If you are reading this, please understand that 12 minutes to fry up one basket of fries is clearly not acceptable. Hahaha! I know I've harped to you numerous times about this but, at least, try my method. We will be able to still cut fresh fries on the truck and prepare them in an expeditious manner. Remember: "We are not fast food... We make food as fast as we can."
~The Food Truck Junkie
"The Fully Loaded" French Fries
When I first started back in January of 2012, I felt that I needed to post something every day and there were days when I didn't feel like posting anything at all. Since June of this year, it's all been dead in the water. Now that I have so much rapport and experience under my belt, I feel it is time to start back up what made The Food Truck Junkie in the first place. My pictures have made many stomachs growl and mouths drool but my personal experiences will, hopefully, influence you to come out and try these awesome dishes for yourself.
Apart from feasting on food trucks, I want to bring to light some local hot spots that I've been told about through my food truck contacts. I believe that if food trucks unanimously tell me of spots I have to go to, I definitely have to check them out. So, my blog may divert off the beaten path but isn't that what life is all about sometime? Just going off and trying something new?
I look forward to sharing and inspiring fellow foodies all over to go and try out all that their street food communities have to offer and I'm anxious to see what year two has in store for me. Thank you!
~The Food Truck Junkie
Ever since I got back to the street food scene in February, I've actually been thinking very long and hard about what I wanted to do. The thought of starting up my own food truck has become more present and every day, it gets bigger and louder. Right now, I'm not happy at my current job only because I have been doing it for three years and haven't moved anywhere within. It has become a monotonous routine and it has physically and mentally wore me out.
I've reached the point to where I want to be able to do something that I have been passionate about and being that I have been a big influence in promoting the street food scene in Phoenix, I know that
If you haven't already guessed, I am seriously thinking about starting up my own food truck business. Serious enough that I've even developed the concept and design, created menu items and doing extensive research and development. I have even put together a Twitter page and currently working on a website, as well. So, you can say that I've crossed the threshold.
So, what would I name my food truck?
The truck concept and design is still up in the air but I'm looking towards a Medieval/Robin Hood theme with forest green and gold colors, as well as a logo of a monk holding a basket of fries (hence, "Deep Friar"). The menu is all about loaded French Fries, Onion Rings, and Sweet Potato Fries, where customers can build their own or choose from the list of specialty fries, including a loaded Onion Rings dish I've called "Dante's Inferno".
I've spoken to close friends, family, and some food truck owners about my idea and have been getting positive feedback and support. As it appears right now, my idea is starting to influence me to getting this dream off the ground more quickly. I still have much to learn and research though, especially permits, regulations, and getting a custom truck or food trailer with all the necessities needed to make my food truck run. Once I've crunched all the numbers, chances are, I'll put together a project on KickStarter, in order to raise the funds.
Will this stop me from still being the Food Truck Junkie? Not really. Food trucks have become my passion and being able to influence the public eye to venture out to try street food is very gratifying. All I know is that with all the friends and connections that I've made during my short time being F.T.J., I know that I'll get the best advice and help from those who will want me to succeed in this endeavor and I would deeply appreciate any help I can get.
The Food Truck Junkie
P.S. ~ If you would like to follow The Deep Friar, the Twitter handle is @TheDeepFriarAZ.
It's that time again to feature another food truck making an impact on the Phoenix street food scene. I did a feature about QUp! BBQ over a year ago. I find it only fitting to bring it back and to let new and upcoming foodies discover this food truck. I still remember when Chef and Owner Devin Clough told me about his inspiration and his mission about starting up his food truck...
"One thing I noticed is that I haven't had any BBQ in Phoenix that just blows me away and that's what I wanted to bring to the valley." Clough stated, "With all the great food we have, we need great BBQ. So, my inspiration is to bring great BBQ, mixed with some flair to the streets of Phoenix from a food truck."
His BBQ is prepared the way he likes it, using the flavors from specific wood and putting the necessary time in smoking his meats. From his BBQ sauce and rubs to the baked beans and coleslaw, everything is home made and is sure hitting a spot with fans.
“We have received tons of raves from people on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and they rave at the truck about how much they love the food. Hopefully, very soon you will see awards or notoriety about us.”
There is another thing, apart from providing great BBQ, that's fueling Clough's passion.
"The other inspiration is food trucks, in general! I love street food, especially good street food! So, I wanted to join in the revolution, help educate the valley and get the awareness out."
And that deep passion for street food reflects highly on the food he serves at every outing he goes on. Smoked brisket, chicken, and pulled pork in, your choice of, a sandwich or taco, topped with cool and freshly made slaw. And you can't have a sandwich or taco without including a side of his bacon & brown sugar baked beans, mac & cheese, or tater tots (if your inner kid speaks to you). Now, if that meal didn’t make your mouth water, you need to check your pulse!
When I first started off, it was a couple weeks after QUp! BBQ first started up and was one of many food trucks I visited right off the bat. The BBQ Brisket sandwich was absolutely delicious. The brisket was tender and melted in your mouth and the cole slaw gave it texture and full of flavor. The same could be said about the pulled pork tacos, topped with slaw, with every bite was just bursting with flavor. Best of all, when it comes to slaw… you put it on top of a sandwich and mix it in with any sauce, to me, it is a guarantee winner!
Another dish worth trying is Devin's pulled pork BBQ nachos, or "Macho Nachos" as I like to call them. Fresh nacho chips, topped with the signature pulled pork, drizzled with BBQ and cheese sauce, then garnished with tomatoes and green onions. All I can say is that this is great to share with people or if you’re not feeling generous, you can have them all for yourself. These nachos are absolutely amazing!
So, if you haven't had the opportunity to try some really awesome BBQ, you can find Devin and QUp! at the Phoenix Farmer's Market on Saturdays or you can track them down on Twitter, @QupBBQ, or finding them on Facebook.
The Food Truck Junkie
This newest Food Truck Feature was actually my very first feature I ever wrote about, concerning food trucks in Phoenix. This is more of a rekindling of a memory of an awesome food truck, Shinobu Diego's, that made a huge impact on the street food scene. The last time I spoke with Marc, he was looking to get his truck back up and running within the next year, year and a half. I'm truly rooting for him to come back on the scene, whether in L.A. or back in Phoenix. He has an amazing concept and delicious food!
So, I hope you enjoy my walk down the food truck memory lane...
There is a "One-of-a-Kind" food truck that I am definitely sure will make a big impact on the food truck scene. I'm talking about Shinobu Diego's Tacos y Burritos, a taco truck infusing the flavors of Japanese cuisine. One bite of their tacos and I guarantee that your taste buds will get swept away in a flavor-packed Tsunami.
This mother and son team is just starting out, hitting the roads as of February 1st, 2012, but Chef and Owner Marc Shelton's passion started five years ago, opening a Japanese-Yakitori stand at a local farmer's market.
"I was going to do it for the summer." Shelton stated, about his first venture attempt. "I did it one time and it took me two hours to set everything up with the tent and table... Didn't work out exactly and it took an hour to break it down, everybody was gone. I was already thinking about a food truck but I wanted to get going in doing something. I just wanted to do that and that just didn't pan out."
It was during the time when "The Great Food Truck Race" was on the air on Food Network that Shelton had an epiphany.
"I was watching all that and I was like, 'I can do that!' They're doing it Korean style and I can do that Japanese style. I worked in a Japanese restaurant for twelve years, my grandmother is Japanese, and I love Japanese cuisine and I'm from Tucson, which is taco central."
And from that moment on, his idea to infuse Japanese-style flavors into Mexican tacos grew and has now become a food truck reality. And, if you've read my previous post about sushi and Japanese food, Shinobu Diego's definitely caught the eye of yours truly.
When I walk up to the truck, I can just smell the teriyaki sauce coming out from the truck and I know that something awesome is being prepared. Made on locally made tortillas, these tacos are just packed with amazing flavors and textures that just explode in your mouth. The meat is marinated twice and all his sauces are homemade, truly showcasing his amazing and deep passion for Japanese cuisine.
And, for those of you who tend to lean on the Vegetarian side, the Shinobo Pollo is right up your alley. Potatoes marinated in teriyaki sauce, topped with slaw, cucumbers and carrots in his homemade vinaigrette with a cilantro-green onion relish, topped with sesame seeds and crema. Now, I'm a straight-up meat and potatoes kind of guy but I can say that if I had to give up meat for lent, I could eat these tacos and not worry about giving up meat in the first place.
There is no doubt in my mind that Shinobu Diego is going to make a big impression with their Japanese-infused tacos and Shelton is looking to expand in the near future into California. But, until that day comes, this loyal customer will spread the word of these awesome tacos.
The Food Truck Junkie
P.S. - We miss you, Marc, and your awesome tacos!
During my ventures, I’m on the lookout for one-of-a-kind trucks, dishing out some amazing delights. I have come across many trucks of that nature and Mamma Toledo’s is truly one of those trucks that should not be passed up. Since 1996, owner and baker Tonya Saidi always wanted to fulfill her passion of owning a little dessert shop. But there was one major obstacle she was faced while trying to shoot for her dream.
“I worked in a title company for a real estate home builder.” Siadi stated. “I have children so I held on to the security my corporate job offered, even though my heart and soul had moved on to my pie business. It was a constant struggle going in to sit at a cubicle when I strongly knew I needed to be devoting all my time to pies.”
When her job laid her off, she pressed on to pursue her culinary dream of owning a dessert truck.
“It was the best thing they could’ve ever done for me. I had been looking for a dessert truck starting in 2007 but I couldn’t find the right make, model and year. I happened to get laid off before I found the truck so I used some money from my 401K and found my baby when I was taking few months off during the summer.”
And in October of 2007, Mamma Toledo’s went into high gear and hasn’t looked back since, cranking out delicious homemade pies to the masses. From her Cup-of-Pies, or “CupPies” as I like to call them, to her 5” and 9” pies, every pie is baked with handmade crusts and sweet and savory fillings. Baking classics such as Key Lime and Lemon Meringue to more amazing over-the-top creations such as BBQ Apple, Butterscotch, and Bailey's and Cream (my personal favorite), each bite will make you feel like you’re back having a slice of Americana from your mother’s, or grandmother’s, kitchen.
“My mom was my inspiration for cooking and baking. She would cook these amazing meals and I always felt so loved when she cooked for us. She passed away in 1995 and I think more than anything she has inspired me more from the side. I wished I would‘ve taken the time to cook with and really learn directly from her instead of the cook books that were left behind.”
Saidi also makes sure that her children spend time with her in the kitchen and hopes to one day be able to teach classes, through baking and cooking, in order to bring back the importance of family values to teenagers.
“I would definitely teach in a room, face-to-face, in order to get the idea across about the bonding process. I hope to help teenagers, not only my own, to recognize the healing qualities and bonding opportunities that baking or cooking with your family offer.”
Mamma Toledo’s pies are something that you just can not pass up at all. You can find her at the local Farmer’s Markets and festivals and also has accounts where her pies, cakes and treats are featured. You can find more information on her website, www.mammatoledos.com
, or you can follow her on Twitter, @mammatoledos, and be up-to-date on her next outing.
So, come on out and let her shut your pie hole… in a good way!
~NickThe Food Truck Junkie
Whether served raw at my favorite sushi bar or cooked up in the comfort of my own kitchen, I am a big fan of seafood. So when I heard that a food truck, specializing in preparing some delicious seafood fare in Phoenix, I just had to check it out. When the "Maine Lobster Lady" first came on the scene, I considered it my Chupacabra, always missing it whenever it popped up, and the strong positive feedback from my other food trucks about the food made me much more eager to try it!
Before her food truck business kicked off, chef Diana Santospago ran an inn off the coast of Maine on a very small island called Isle au Haut. From 2-course breakfasts to a 5-course dinner, she provided the meals for all her guests, including the general public, since there weren't any restaurants on the island. Great hospitality at its finest. But, she also has some prior experience working on the high seas.
“Prior to the inn business, I worked as a sternman, or the fool who does all the work while the captain drives the boat.” stated Santospago, “I know the lobster business from trap to table. I have done gear work, helped to unload bait (herring) from the purse seiners, baited traps, hauled and picked traps, banded lobsters, taken them to the market, cooked and picked them.”
Along with her experience on the boat and working an inn, she ran a small business based off an honor system. After a days haul worth on the boat, she would bring home fresh crab, cook, pick out the meat then place them in packages. The packages of crab meat were then placed in a cooler in front of her house with an empty jar and sign reading, “Fresh Crab Meat”.
“The next day when I got in from the day out on the water, my cooler would be empty and my jar full. I eventually added a gazebo type set up and offered muffins and cookies.”
After a while, she stopped going on the boat altogether to make her small business full time, adding sandwiches, cold soups, cold drinks and fresh veggies from her garden. To her, this was not so far from being a mobile food business because her location was ideal and generated a good amount of traffic every day.
“The island where I live is 60% Acadia National Park. So, we have a fair amount of tourists arriving on our mail boat to hike for the day. I happen to live next door to the Ranger’s station, the first stop for hikers who arrive at our town landing.”
It was only after heading to the Southwest for the winter, she decided to start up her food truck, “The Maine Lobster Lady”, as she saw an opportunity to promote Maine Lobster and feed her passion at the same time.
“I have prepared Maine seafood for more than 30 years. I felt that bringing Maine Lobster to the desert southwest would fill its desire to spread the word about our responsible Lobster harvesting practices and the bellies of the desert dwellers.”
And, she has not steered us off course...
"Traditional Style" Maine Lobster Roll
From her mouth-watering Lobster Rolls, served two different ways, to her savory Lobster Mac & Cheese, Diana has built quite a following in Phoenix. I have heard stories of people lining out in front TWO HOURS before she opens up to serve for the day and that she would run out... within the hour. Now, I don't have evidence in my possession to state that these rumors might be true. But after you have taken one bite of her Lobster Roll, you might agree that you would believe those rumors could be true, as well.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
The Lobster Mac and Cheese is like having comfort food while embracing the seas on the boat, waiting to haul in your catches for the day. Big chunks of delicious lobster, paired with pasta, covered in a creamy cheese sauce and herb bread crumbs. It's so insanely delicious that even my older brother, who RARELY eats, is addicted to this treat of the sea... that along with the Shrimp Puffs, in which he ordered a second serving!
It's clear and obvious that she gets all her lobster and other fresh products from the East Coast. But, I just wonder how she is able to get everything from Maine out here to Arizona...
“The most difficult obstacle to this business was figuring out how to get the best possible product from Maine to Arizona while leaving the smallest carbon footprint. Many folks have asked how I do it but I have decided this will remain a proprietary secret process.”
Well, no matter how she does it, she still attracts fellow “desert dwellers”, like myself, to partake in her "Visite de la Mer", or “Tour of the Sea”, with her freshest and delicious catches of the day.
The Food Truck Junkie
2012 has been a very eventful year...
Back in January, all I had when I began was a Twitter account and an appetite to try out the biggest and fastest growing food trend in Phoenix. I never expected to go through an entire year and be part of a booming street food scene here in Phoenix. I'm very happy to have been involved in bringing street food awareness all around Phoenix and being able to promote all the food trucks and related events. I look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store, in regards to the street food scene.
Now, to address some questions that I have been asked throughout 2012...
Everyone I have run into and spoke highly about the food trucks have asked me, "What is your overall favorite food truck?" My answer: "I don't have enough experience to come up with a definite answer." To me, I really don't like showing favortism because all the food trucks I've had have been awesome. It's really hard to pick out ONE food truck that stands out from the pack. I also believe that I need to expand and try food trucks in other cities, whenever I have an opportunity to travel.
F.T.J. RESOLUTION #1: I want to travel around the country and experience, for myself, the street food scene in as many metropolitan cities as I possibly can and become more enriched in the culture.
Another major question I was asked, mostly, all the time was, "Why don't you open up your own food truck?" I just couldn't stop myself from laughing because this was something I would hear all the time. But, in the back of my mind, the thought of starting up my own food truck is there. Question is, "What kind of food would I serve if I were to start one myself?"
I have had some delicious eats throughout 2012. From Balut from "Hey Joe!" in Phoenix to a Grilled Grilled Cheese Patty Melt from "GarlicScapes" in Orange County, these trucks come out with unique, one-of-a-kind menu items. I would have to create a "Food Truck Identity" that crowds have not seen before. From the external concept and appearance to the menu itself, I would have to research long and hard to come up an edge that would make me stand out from the other trucks.
Another question I would have to ask myself is, "How much would it cost to start one up and to keep it in operation?" Now, I don't have an opinion about cost and operations because I have no experience in working in the Dining and Hospitality Industry. So, my best bet is to get hands-on experience, learning the ins-and-outs of working a food truck. I've worked on a food truck before, courtesy of Mark Shelton of "Shinobu Diego's", but I really need to immerse myself to fully understand what it means to be a food truck owner and operator.
F.T.J. RESOLUTION #2: If I were to start a food truck, develop a Food Truck Identity along with a unique, one-of-a-kind menu and to learn and fully understand how to become a food truck owner and operator.
"What is the best meal you've ever had off a food truck?" This was another question that I could not give a solid, straight-forward answer to only because every meal I've had off of food trucks has been the best. Like I stated before, some of these food trucks are unique and one-of-a-kind, cranking out dishes that I would never expected to have.
But, there is still a whole food truck nation out there that I haven't tried. I've been to Las Vegas and Orange County but I was only able to try just ONE truck during my visits. So, apart from being able to travel and visit all the local food truck scenes in the country, I would really like to be able to try, at least, a little bit of everything from all the food trucks around the country then document it, probably on YouTube or, here, on my website.
FTJ RESOLUTION #3: To vlog my food truck ventures and to post it here or on YouTube as a series, like a mock version of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on Food Network but with food trucks.
I am looking forward to continuing on with what I am doing for the food truck community, through promoting new and upcoming food trucks and food truck related events. But, I also want to make an important announcement to the food trucks, my followers, and fellow food truck enthusiasts.
I have been struggling with weight mostly my whole life and I am going in on January 7th for gastric bypass surgery. Now, back in 2007, I had the lap band procedure and I was very successful with it. I lost over 100 lbs. within 2 months, which is amazing in itself with a procedure that was not as severe. But after complications due to double pneumonia causing the lap band to slip, it was removed and it was a struggle ever since, in order to keep the weight off and managed.
Now, I'm going in for a permanent change in my lifestyle and I've had questions and concerns addressed to me in regards of being able to stay as the Food Truck Junkie. I feel that the surgery is not going to hinder me one bit, at all. Once I've gone through with what I need to do and restructure my eating mannerisms, I feel that I can come back and still be the Food Truck Junkie that everyone knows. I can still eat what I want off of the food trucks but I be having as much as I used to.
And, I believe, a couple of my food trucks know about some of my food truck coma incidents..
As of now, I am out of the food truck scene until further notice but that won't stop me from getting the word out of all that is food truck related. I will still have my hands on Twitter, posting and retweeting any promotions for food trucks and events. I am also having some close friends, who have grown very fond of my food truck escapades, take over in regards to acquiring pictures of events, especially the Street Eats Festival this weekend. So, consider me down but not out.
I hope everyone had an awesome (belated) holiday season, celebrating with family and friends, and that the new year is very prosperous to you. Thank you for the continuing support and keep on truckin', friends!
The Food Truck Junkie
Food Truck Wednesdays always tends to be one of the highlights of my busy work week. I enjoy getting out to the Phoenix Public Market, hanging out and chatting with the owners, as well as indulging, in moderation, in all the delicious variety of food. What makes Food Truck Wednesdays even better is when it hits the first Wednesday of the month... when it becomes Food Truck Mania!
This Food Truck Mania was different this month and was one I was looking forward to when it was first announced. Luncha Libre's Tim Cobb and Hey Joe's Brian Webb wanted to have a competition to see who could crank out a better pork dish and, hence, the Pork Battle was announced. Weeks before the anticipated event and after I posted an announcement, including a countdown, on my site, I was sent a tweet stating that other trucks were interested in getting into the battle. So, it went from being a Pork Battle to a Pork Battle Royale with 13 food trucks cranking out their best pork dishes.
All I can say is that I was glad that I was not chosen to be a judge for this competition because the food trucks cranked out some amazing and delicious pork dishes. It was hard to just pick one dish that stood out from the rest. That's why I left it up to the crowd and our guest judges that night to choose the champion. Below, is a small slide show of some of the pork dishes I sampled throughout the evening. Unfortunately, I was not able to try all the pork entries..
After the judges finished sampling the last plates submitted and the final tickets for the "People's Choice" had been counted, a winner was finally crowned. Brian Webb of the Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food truck came out victorious and took home the Golden Pig and the "People's Choice" award. It was Brian's "Joe-Kawali" that nudged him passed him passed his competitors and as he accepted his award, his chant "pork blood" started to echo throughout the crowd. Yes, his dish included a pork blood sauce... and, yes, it was savory.
I personally believe that this month's Food Truck Mania, along with the Pork Battle Royale, brought in the biggest turnout that I have seen in all the events that I've been to. I am definitely looking forward to next month's "Mania", a possible new Battle Royale, and another night of hanging out with this awesome Food Truck Community. If a new battle is on the horizon, keep checking back for updates!
The Food Truck Junkie