By George Barker, one time retail agent…
…George is preparing to open the first British food truck in LA and Orange County with the aim of educating the American people that we Brits do not just eat fish and chips. Until recently, George worked at Cushman & Wakefield’s London office for four years before pursuing a career in food.
Food trucks have been an integral part of the culinary landscape in California since the 1960s. Tacos and other Mexican fare are ever-present at construction sites providing affordable, hearty food to workers.
In 2008 a man named Roy Choi changed the food truck game when he combined his Korean heritage with Mexican staples to open the first “gourmet” food truck called Kogi. Southern California went crazy for the $2 short rib tacos, and Kogi soon amassed a cult following with over 85,000 Twitter followers hunting down the truck. Fast forward 7 years and Kogi has accumulated three food trucks, one restaurant and one food stand in a Whole Foods. Roy Choi has also opened other restaurants away from the Kogi brand, has a cookbook/autobiography, a hotel, a TV show and countless culinary awards to his name. Not bad for a beat-up taco truck.
The gourmet food truck is embedded in the psyche of any good eater worth their smoked-Himalayan-organic-flaked-sea salt. Street food events such as Smorgasburg, Abbot Kinney First Friday, and Street Food Tuesday are testament to the ongoing interest in food trucks. Food trucks have truly grown up. Chef Daniel Humm, head chef of the #1 restaurant in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, is due to open the new Nomad hotel in Downtown LA. In preparation for the hotel opening, a food truck bearing the Nomad name has been roaming the streets of LA serving Humm Dogs, chicken burgers and ice cream. The best chef in the world using a food truck to sell burgers, and promote what will be one of the swankiest hotels in LA, would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.
Food trucks are an affordable way of getting into the food business – a custom built kitchen and a used truck costs c.$100,000 – compared to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on a restaurant. Consequently, it has become a brilliant incubator for budding chefs to hone their craft and develop their brand before expanding into bricks and mortar. But it is not just the poorly financed or uninitiated who have taken the step into the mobile kitchen world. Companies such as In-N-Out, Starbucks and Taco Bell have all capitalised on their brand by opening food trucks to service private events. A food truck allows them to promote their brand and create close emotional connections with their customers. What newlywed couple would forget the In-N-Out they ate as their first meal and who would fail to tell tales of the Unicorn Frappuccino (it’s really a thing) they drank the morning after Coachella.
Whether a food truck starts a pipe dream or helps an existing F&B empire to broaden its reach, it looks like they are here to stay: the industry brought in a reported $1.2 billion in revenue in 2016. Although the landscape maybe changing, one thing is for sure, Americans love eating from a truck.
Follow George and The Hungry Royal food truck’s journey on Instagram @thehungryroyal.