They met while making mashed potatoes at Kentucky Fried
Chicken. He dropped some on her foot and – plop — she was hooked. That was 15
years ago and she still talks about it in interviews.
If McCune is a romantic, she picked the right partner. Matt
Bolam (of mashed potato fame) is throwing himself into the kitchen of a food truck,
promising to turn Asian food on its head. He’s self-taught.
Dreamers? It could look that way until you see the larger
picture. Bolam grew up in a family that fed crowds on a regular basis. Not only
did he have a lot of relatives – nearly a dozen aunts and uncles on each side — but his mother and grandmother regularly ran
food concessions at agricultural shows. They’d get as many as 500 customers in
a day. He was always part of the staff.
“Cooking in quantity has never been a problem for me,” he
said by phone this week. He also spent several years working in a commercial
bakery. More recently, he has been immersing himself in Chinese, Japanese,
Korean, Vietnamese and other Asian cuisines. When he sets out his first food
truck menu, he expects to do variations on
Japanese vegetable pancakes, spicy fried tofu and Banh Mi sandwiches. The latter will feature some
of his traditionally hand-made pickled vegetables and a slice of Spam to set
“He taught himself,
and he has a talent for it,” said McCune.
A steady hand shores up the couple as they embark on their
first business. They both attended a 10-week commercial food “boot camp” at
Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen. Everything was taught, from food
safety to cooking in volume to marketing.
Better yet, the husband-and-wife applied for and got a $35,000 loan from Economic
Community and Development Institute (ECDI) a lender specializing in food
start-ups which now has an office in Cleveland. Adding that loan to their life
savings, they bought the former Umami Moto truck. His father helped them tailor
it for themselves, and her mother and friends have become a small army of
social media volunteers.
Bolam has been practicing at home, setting up a menu,
inviting over a crowd and getting to work. It’s all gone well, “although I
still haven’t had as much time on the truck as I was hoping for.”
As of Thursday, they still didn’t have their final permits
from the city of Cleveland. But these dreamers are also hopeful, optimistic and
One of their first appearances will be at the Cleveland
Asian Festival on May 17 and 18.
“We’re a little nervous about that,” said McCune, “but we
have been inviting over people who know Asian food to give us feedback.
“We’re ready for harsh criticism. We don’t mind it at all.”
CARY — Stephanie Ruggiro’s new work space might be just as cramped as her old cubicle in New York City.
It’s also hotter.
But after she lost her job with an advertising firm a year ago, the 25-year-old figured the food truck industry had more to offer than the corporate world.
So she found an old FedEx truck and turned it into STUFT, which sells gourmet stuffed potatoes.
“Sitting in a cubicle for eight hours a day wasn’t for me anyway,” said Ruggiro, who lives in Cary. “Being laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Food trucks are becoming staples at office parks and breweries throughout the Triangle. Raleigh and Durham host food truck rodeos, and Cary hopes to soon approve rules that would welcome food trucks to town.
Ruggiro, a graduate of Green Hope High School and UNC-Wilmington, says the food-truck business gives her freedom – “Who doesn’t want to be their own boss?” – and an increasing amount of opportunity.
But the industry poses unique challenges, and Ruggiro has little experience in the food world. She learned most of what she knows from her parents, who owned restaurants and are “awesome” cooks, she says.
She also spent a day working with American Meltdown, a Durham-based food truck specializing in cheesy sandwiches.
“You need the flexibility of a master yogi, an addiction to adrenaline and a sense of humor,” said Paul Inserra, owner of American Meltdown. “Things are gonna go wrong, and you don’t want your team to hate you.”
Inserra started his business two years ago, when the local food-truck scene was just blooming.
Since then, he’s seen dozens of new trucks around – some for only a short time.
“There’s a long list, maybe 20 deep, that have launched and flopped since I’ve been around,” Inserra said. “It’s tough. You have long, long hours. And we’re wondering how long it’ll be before the area is too saturated.”
But Ruggiro seems to be a natural, he said.
And Ruggiro thinks STUFT has the ingredients to be successful. Memorable name: check. Niche product: check.
“I haven’t seen any other stuffed potato trucks around,” she said. “Definitely not any that serve buffalo chicken and Asian short ribs on them.”
Food that pairs well with alcohol: check plus.
“Potatoes absorb everything,” Ruggiro said. “It’s great ‘drunk food.’ ”
Fittingly, Ruggiro’s first glimpse at the demand for her potatoes came April 26 at Raleigh’s Brewgaloo beer festival.
STUFT, one of 30 food trucks at the event, sold 350 potatoes at $6 to $8 apiece.
“We were continuously busy for eight hours straight,” Ruggiro said.
She also got about a dozen business cards, which may prove useful as she books her schedule on weekdays.
She admits that owning and operating a food truck is harder than it looks.
Before she began the process of finding customers, she had to find a suitable truck and someone skilled enough to retrofit it.
“Trying to find someone to outfit the truck is really, really hard,” she said. “It was like Tetris trying to get everything to fit.”
The project cost about $60,000, but the gutted FedEx truck now has a fryer, grill, convection oven, refrigerator and two sinks.
Ruggiro’s parents pitched in a little.
“When you have a child that shows as much drive and determination as she does, and you can help them, you do it,” said her mother, Lynn Ruggiro.
“It’s hard to get off the ground when you don’t have much money to start,” she added.
Stephanie Ruggiro’s brother, Anthony, saved the dollar bill from her first sale. It came on a sunny afternoon at Bombshell Beer Company in Holly Springs on April 24.
“You gotta save it,” he said, tucking it under the register.
Wearing her Pabst Blue Ribbon hat backwards, Ruggiro stuck her head out the food-truck window.
“You don’t need a degree to run a food truck,” she said. “But it helps.”
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht
A small army of out-of-town food trucks will be serving Tucson residents this weekend as part of filming for the Fifth season of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.”
The show, hosted by Tyler Florence, follows eight trucks as they make their way across the country.
At every stop, trucks compete to make the most amount of money selling their different styles of cuisine. The one that makes the least amount is eliminated. The rest move on to the next town.
The winner gets $50,000 and a new truck.
At least three of the competing trucks, the Lone Star Chuck Wagon, Let There Be Bacon and Military Moms, have posted to their Twitter and Facebook feeds that they will be selling in Tucson this weekend, although none of them mentioned the show by name or specific locations.
Calls to The Food Network were not immediately returned.
A post featured on the Edhat Santa Barbara website about the competition filming in Southern California, includes shots of the Chuck Wagon, Let There Be Bacon and Military Moms, as well as the food trucks, Beach Cruiser: Fresh California Cuisine, The Middle Feast, The Gourmet Graduates and the Chatty Chicken.
This will be host Tyler Florence’s second visit to Southern Arizona this year. He came to Sierra Vista in mid-March to film an episode of “Food Court Wars.”
The fight over where and when food trucks can operate in Baltimore City continues, but WBAL-TV 11 News has learned a compromise is forming.
Mobile users tap here to watch video
The food truck fad in Baltimore doesn’t appear to be a flash in the pan.
“They offer more adventurous options than most restaurants and they’re less expensive,” said Tiffany Kenny, of Cockeysville.
The mobile meal business has become so popular there’s now a weekly food truck festival in the city.
But this year, a bill has been making its way through City Hall that would regulate where and when the trucks can operate.
“People want to create jobs. They are killing jobs. They are killing jobs with this,” said Andre Chitikov, owner of the Kommie Pig food truck.
The main sticking point is a provision that would force the food trucks that pay permit and licensing fees to the city to stay at least 300 feet away from brick-and-mortar restaurants. Truck owners feel singled out.
“If you have a pizza shop and then the place next to you vacates and another pizza shop wants to go in, the city’s not going to say anything about it,” said Marcello Salles, owner of the Darua food truck.
But this week a compromise appears to be forming. According to Damian Bohager, the president of the Maryland Mobile Food Vendors Association, the city will designate some food truck-only zones but also let trucks continue to park at parking meters; trucks will also be able to operate at farmer’s markets, if invited; and trucks can operate after midnight.
In exchange, the food truck industry agreed not to sue the city for keeping trucks 300 feet away from restaurants.
“We agreed to not file suit against the city and understand that 300-foot rule is unconstitutional, against the 14th Amendment, and most major cities that have instituted that have lost that legal battle,” Bohager said.
However, a City Council hearing to finalize this compromise was delayed this week. Bohager said new amendments were introduced, including one to restrict food trucks in large sections of Federal Hill, Fells Point and Canton.
The bill is stuck in the City Council’s Judiciary Committee. WBAL-TV 11 News contacted the committee’s chairman, Councilman Jim Kraft, for comment but that call has not yet been returned.
The Beachcomber sandwich was once Akron’s little culinary
secret. This Greek-style, half-pound patty of marinated, ground beef sat on a
matching oval-shaped sesame-seed bun toasted with garlic butter, layered with lettuce,
tomato and an optional shot of hot pepper sauce. Instead of fries, you got rice
pilaf, a connection to its creator’s Macedonian heritage.
Where was Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald’s) when Nick Yanko featured
this hefty item in his beloved restaurants? Probably nowhere near Akron three
or four generations ago, when only the swankiest customers – Hollywood stars
and famous disc jockeys – found their way there from out-of-town.
In town, however, The Beachcomber was a hit.
“I still hear from people who remember it,” said Kendra St.
Charles, Yanko’s granddaughter. Since the 1990s, when the last family
restaurant closed, St. Charles has catered parties featuring the “gourmet”
“I never tire of hearing people say, ‘Can you give me the
recipe?’ I just laugh. It made me realize what a mark my family left.”
Yanko started serving food in Akron in 1918. He opened the
white tablecloth restaurant, The Highlander, in Highland Square, in 1940, and,
later, the family restaurant, Yanko’s Famous Foods, in Fairlawn, in 1970. A pub
St. Charles remembers every family member working together
at one time or another.
“It was part of the way we all grew up,” she said. “We got
to see our cousins every day.”
They also saw a frequent celebrity. St. Charles posted on
Facebook black-and-white photos of her poufy-toqued grandfather greeting singer
Dinah Shore, movie star Lola Albright, and Cleveland’s disc jockey Alan Freed.
One night, principals from television’s “Bonanza” showed up for a meal and a
“I knew we had a lot of celebrities there,” said St.
Charles. “I have autographs from Joey Bishop and Dean Martin, but back then we
were just little kids. We weren’t impressed.”
The legend of the food stayed with her, but not enough to
enter the stressful restaurant business. Occasional catering suited her well,
until she worked with Jeff Winer, one of the original owners of The Orange Truk.
He talked her into getting her own truck, and The Beachcomber was born.
St. Charles says she doesn’t know the origin of the
hamburger’s name. She’s worked her way through the memories of just about every
“I still haven’t talked to a cousin in Toronto,” she said.
The Beachcomber made 300 friends on Facebook before it left
the garage. Now it will test the waters outside the home territory. Some 96
years after the Yanko name went on a restaurant in Akron, St. Charles is rolling
The Beachcomber food truck into Cleveland, selling the original sandwich to an
audience that will likely try it for the first time. She’ll also offer chicken
and mushroom versions, each with the side of rice pilaf.
Again, family and friends will be helping. At 60, St.
Charles is not sure how everything is going to work out, but she’s prepared to
put her legacy on wheels and give it a roll.
“My daughter calls me every other day to tell me about a
story on the news about a woman who had two or three trucks, and then opened a
“You never know,” she said.
There’s a rush of excitement in searching for the Luchador Food Truck at the Las Cruces Farmers and Craft Market, 100 N. Main St. Between the rows of different vendors and artists, the fiery red truck with bright Lucha Libre design calls out to passersby.
Luchador Food Truck serves up a unique flair of Mexican food. The majority of the menu’s selections — tacos, hamburgers, tortas and pozole — are $6, with the exception of the quesadilla ($4 for a single and $7 for a double).
The food truck not only has Lucha Libre displayed on their truck, but the dishes on the menu are named after notable professional wrestlers. The Awesome Andy torta, named after native Las Cruces wrestler Andy Palafox, comes with chicken, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and cheese.
The grilled chicken is chopped into large pieces; each bit of the marinated meat has a great grilled flavor. The chicken is complemented well by the freshness of the lettuce and tomato. The two bacon strips are crisp, adding crunch to each bite, along with the lettuce. The avocado adds a creamy element, but the overall flavor of the avocado is subtle. One of the details that stood out was the cheese. The Awesome Andy includes a hearty amount of shredded cheese between the slices of bread. The bread is sturdy and has flour dusted on the top adding texture to the bun.
What I enjoyed the most about the Awesome Andy, is the mixture of all the flavors combined for standout taste that showcases each ingredient evenly.
The Ultimate Warrior torta was our next selection. This torta is packed with four meats, carne asada, chicken, chorizo and ham. It is a great dish for brunch. The thin slice of ham had a wonderful deep color from the grill and had sweetness to it. The carne was shredded and the marinated chicken was sliced into large bite-sized pieces. The addition of chorizo kicked up the flavor and brought some spice.
Each torta came with a side of salsa. The red salsa had a dry heat to it. It was hot, but the salsa works as a tag-team partner; rather than taking over the meal; when added, it enhanced the existing flavors.
On Saturdays, Luchador Food Truck serves Holey Pozole ($6) made with your choice of red or green chile. I ordered the red chile with pork, because it was the only one offered on this particular day. Pozole (or posole) is traditional Mexican soup like menudo, but it is rare to find it at eateries. The main difference: menudo is made with tripe, pozole typically is made with pork or beef meat and calls for hominy. Menudo can be made with or without hominy. Preparations for each do vary, though.
The presentation of this dish was something I hadn’t seen before. Luchador serves the soup in a cup in the middle of a Styrofoam plate. The plate’s hole fits the cup perfectly, making it easy to walk around with. Around the cup, there is a large piece of toasted bread, a slice of lime and chopped onions, cilantro, radish and cabbage.
Once the lid from the cup is removed, the aroma of chile fills the air. The chile was mild, but had a rich taste. The hominy was tender, but still had a tough taste to it. The pork is chopped into large chunks. It absorbed the chile and melted in your mouth. The buttery bread was toasted and great to eat on its own or by dipping into the soup. It soaked up the chile quickly and held its form.
Luchador Food Truck is a shining example of why food trucks work. Their quick service makes it ideal for lunch during the week or for laid back Saturdays.
Luchador Food Truck is located Wednesday and Friday at the Las Cruces Farmers and Craft Market, 100 N. Main St., from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/luchadorfoodtruck, follow them on Twitter @LuchadorFT or call 575-650-2078.
IF YOU GO
What: Luchador Food Truck
Where: Las Cruces Farmers and Craft Market, 100 N. Maint St. Wednesdays and Saturdays, and at other locations throughout Las Cruces during the week. Find out where the truck will be on Facebook “Luchador Food Truck” or on Twitter @LuchadorFT.
Hours: Wednesday and Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Main Street. Other times and locations vary.
Cost: $6 for tacos, hamburgers, tortas and pozole (only sold on Saturdays); $4 for single quesadillas and $7 for double quesadillas
Info: www.facebook.com/luchadorfoodtruck and 575-650-2078
“The reason I decided to help them out with the process is because I’m a fan of the product,” Viviani told Boston.com in a phone interview.
“They had an idea of going on a tour around America, having people — instead of what most companies do when they want to promote a product — instead of going and spending a ton of money…they got a food truck,” Viviani said. “And now we go around the United States having people physically taste the product instead of listening and reading about it.”
So far, the tour has included stops in Arizona and Utah, and will venture to New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana after Boston.
Viviani will give a demonstration from 2 until 3 p.m. and fans of his who visit the truck can enter to win a trip to Los Angeles, including two nights lodging and a cooking session with Viviani himself at his Moorpark, Calif. restaurant, Café Firenze.
If nothing else, stop by and try out one of the foods that Viviani stands by, because as he said, “At the end of the day, we’re talking about food. the only way for people to understand the quality and passion behind the food is to actually taste it.”
Emily Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MissEmilyWright.
It looks like a fire truck, shoots water like a fire truck,
but inside the belly of this shiny, 1980s model life-saver is a roaring wood-fired
Fire Truck Pizza Company out of North Royalton has entered
this year’s class of food trucks in Northeast Ohio. And it makes perfect sense
to the pizza-fied D’Abramo family who put it together.
“We had to do something different,” said Rina D’Abramo. “We
joked about the fire truck thing, but thought, ‘How can you even buy a fire
Next thing they knew, they were talking to a local collector.
Some $11,000 later, they were putting pizza paddles in the compartment where
the Northfield fire department once stored their axes.
Oh, and spending tens of thousands more to put in the oven,
a roof over the storage area and a checkered awning for kitchen shelter.
“We love it,” said D’Abramo, 42. “It’s our little baby.”
Little baby with a big appetite for gas.
“We get about five or six miles to a gallon, something
horrible,” she said. “So we do charge a little extra if we have to travel
outside our 30-mile radius.”
Let’s make this clear: The D’Abramo family has more than a
passing acquaintance with wood-fired pizza. Rina’s father ate it that way in
Italy. One year he built one in their back yard, then built a room around it.
There were many times, with up to 100 guests, when their lives seemed like one
big pizza party.
Rina went on to become a medical doctor. Her brother, Bruno,
built a construction company.
Pizza-love still beckoned.
“We talked about opening a restaurant, but it costs a lot
more,” she said.
Then food trucks came into vogue. The whole family climbed
Last week in Brecksville, Fire Truck Pizza Company pulled up
to a Geis construction site where the managers wanted to treat employees to a
As workers got in line, Rina stretched out her dough balls
made with “00″ grind flour, favored in the old country. The “sauce” she said,
was little more than tomatoes.
“It’s our own sauce, our own dough,” she said. “We’ve all
been to Italy many times and we like to mimic their ‘less is more’ way of
building a pizza.”
But a canister of “secret spice” is at hand, and Rina likes
variations. She’s built a bacon and honey pizza with a white sauce, a veggie
version, and a shrimp with vodka sauce.
“There are no preservatives, colorings or sugars in
anything,” she said. “As a physician, I’m pretty well versed in nutrition and
food. There’s nothing here that I wouldn’t serve my own family.”
Moving down the line, her sister-in-law Kelly D’Abramo helped
assemble toppings, her niece Katie Jackson cut the pies with a rocking blade
and her brother, Bruno, slipped the pies quickly in and out of the oven. At 700
degrees, a pie doesn’t need to stay in there long. He and other family members
chopped all the wood.
“We’re going to feed pizza to the world,” says Bruno, 45, dressed
for heat – and a rock concert — with a black bandanna around his head.
Right now, part time will do for most of them. Rina works
several hours a week at a hospital emergency room and Bruno has his business.
The smiles and conversation they get from customers is like
an extension of all those childhood pizza parties.
“Firefighters love it, and so do a lot of the medics I work
with,” said Rina.
Once, someone tried to flag the truck down, thinking they
were answering a distress call. With a small, 100-gallon water tank left on the
vehicle, there wasn’t much Bruno could do.
“I can make you a pizza, though,” he said.
Chicago continues to inch towards catching up with other cities’ food truck scenes. Rahm Emanuel proposed a plan in Chicago City Council yesterday that calls for five more food truck stands around the city, all in downtown areas.
While the addition of stands were a part of the food truck ordinance passed in July 2012, many food trucks were upset with the lack of locations downtown. Click through below to see the proposed locations, which are still not allowed to be within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
WALNUT CREEK — The city’s first food truck market may finally open in May, after months of delay.
Dubbed “The Bend,” the market is on track to open shop on Main Street May 17 at the latest — at the site of the former French restaurant Le Virage.
The family behind Le Virage — French for “the turn” — are the owners and operators of The Bend, which will offer eight rotating food trucks six days a week for lunch and dinner.
Le Virage, remembered for the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec-themed murals that once adorned the building, operated for 34 years before closing in 2005. The building burned down seven years later.
But from the ashes comes the market, named for its location at the bend in the road where California Boulevard and Main Street split near the Walnut Creek BART Station.
The Bend originally was supposed to open in March, but working through the city’s approval process to make improvements to the site has taken longer than originally planned, said co-owner Matt Marinelli.
“When all is said and done we will be giving the city a brand new sidewalk,” he said.
That has been the major obstacle. Marinelli and his father Ed — the other co-owner — agreed to build a continuous 10-foot sidewalk in front of the site all the way down Main Street. In some places it was a short as three feet across, too narrow for handicapped access, Marinelli said. He expects the work to begin this week and be done in two days — which means the market could open even earlier than May 17.
“We are ready to go,” he said.
Ready and eager, because other food truck markets have begun to roll into nearby areas. Food Truck Mafia, another major player in the mobile dining scene, launched a Saturday market at the Martinez marina last month. And Off the Grid, which runs food truck markets in 22 locations across the Bay Area, already has a market at The Willows in Concord on Saturdays and plans to put on a weekly event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday on Trelany Road behind Pleasant Hill City Hall, with a tentative start date of May 21.
The other newcomer is Taste of the World Market, which opened Thursday and will run every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Contra Costa Centre.
While Taste of the World is operating in unincorporated Contra Costa County between the Pleasant Hill-Contra Costa Center BART Station and the transit village, The Bend will be the first actual Walnut Creek market. It will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 to 9 p.m.
The Bend, Marinelli said, will offer a “unique experience” that feels more “high-end,” without further elaboration.
“Let’s just say we are not going to just set out a bunch of chairs and call it a food truck market,” he said.
Vendors set to roll in include Sweet and Mellow, a coffee and dessert truck; Street Dogs; a gourmet hot dog truck; and Lexie’s Frozen Custard.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.
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