Visit any city in America, talk to local food geeks and the conversation ultimately turns to food trucks.
These restaurants on wheels are the darlings of the foodie community and the bane of regulators. Perhaps fueled by 2014’s film, “Chef,” would-be chefs on wheels longed for the vagabond life. The challenge: Careening from city to city on a cross country food truck journey is unrealistic. Food trucks, just like the brick and mortar counterparts, are subject to state and local food safety regulations, zoning guidelines and enough population to queue outside a truck’s window.
Devoted food truck operators are a stalwart bunch and find ways to maneuver the system. That applies to Asheville’s growing fleet of food trucks and the hard-working men and women who put the pedal to the metal and the burgers on the buns.
According to AshevilleFoodTrucks.com, there are almost 60 active food trucks traversing the city. Operators in Asheville park at festivals, breweries and other private sites, lacking an ordinance that allows public street parking. For devotees, Twitter and AshevilleFoodTrucks.com keep everyone abreast of where to find their favorite taco, barbecue, pizza or even Salvadoran pupusas.
One of those food truck chefs is Brad Jordan. Brad ditched a gig in a distribution center to take to the streets, hustling up sandwiches and dishes built around locally-sourced, organic and natural ingredients. Brad took time off from cooking, menu planning and truck repair to answer HungryMansGuide.com’s 5 Questions.
HMG: A food truck seems to be every chef's fantasy. I get the impression you didn't come from a kitchen gig. What career did you leave behind -- and why take on the hard work of a food truck?
BJ: Yeah, I don't have much of a formal kitchen background, but I've always loved to cook. I remember when I was a youngster and saw The Food Network on TV and thought, man I want to learn how to cook like those guys. But, it's even more than that. I have a primal urge to bring back food that's closer to the way our ancestors ate, even though I have to temper my desire with customer demand. I want to use the whole animal. I use the bones for demi-glace, ground beef for the meat, and hopefully, at some point in the future, I'll be able to use beef tallow to fry potatoes in. That way I'll be using the whole animal, instead of just one part of the cow.
I take on the hard work of the truck because, I love to cook. It's in my bones. I think it's in all of our bones to some degree, that's why people seem get so caught up in it, whether it's watching it on TV, going out to eat, or cooking from home. We are the only species on earth that cooks our food and I think people are fascinated by it.
HMG: Any food operation has challenges -- what is unique about running a food truck?
BJ: Finding a good, consistent place to park is probably the hardest thing to do, especially here in Asheville, where there seems to be an abundant amount food trucks. The number of decent parking places is limited because we can't park on public streets. We have to find private business owners who've gone through a complicated approval process to allow us to use their parking lots. For example, the city might require a landowner to make improvements to their parking lots - like adding trees - before they designate it as a legal food truck spot.
Another challenge is repairs. I had to replace my motor this year, which set me back quite a bit.
HMG: You could have easily opened a taco truck -- why did you adopt the strategy of grass-fed meats and what you are calling "real" ingredients?
BJ: First and foremost, the flavor is better. Grass-fed meats are richer in flavor and provide one more nutrients, like iron and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are lacking in grain-fed, factory-farmed cows. Not to mention the way they treat those animals is absolutely horrible.
HMG: When you turn off the truck at night, what has happened that makes you say, "Now that was a good day!" Do you have a best-seller?
BJ: When business is popping and everyone is loving the food that they're getting. The Brad's Burger is probably the No. 1 seller. It's 1/3 lb. grass-fed beef smothered in grass-fed cheddar cheese, topped with caramelized onions, local lettuce and tomato, on a local bun smeared with horseradish mayo.
HMG: Is there a bricks and mortar storefront in your future? If you weren't doing this, what would your fantasy career look like?
BJ: I don't know about a brick and mortar restaurant, maybe. What I've learned from food trucking is the restaurant business is hard work, wheels or not. Right now, I'm living moment to moment and enjoying the ride. I do dream about starting my own YouTube cooking channel sometimes, so you may see that in the not so distant future.
Where is Brad? The Real Food Truck schedule is posted to its social media pages. Brad is a regular at Twin Leaf Brewing, The Brew Pump, and has recently been appearing at The Asheville Food Park, 219 Amboy Road.
The Real Food Truck website