After weeks of anticipation, I finally went to Off the Grid at Fort Mason on April 15 to check out the street food scene.Â At 8:30pm, it was still packed with people wall-to-wall eating and socializing.Â I enjoyed tasting a variety of small portions of good food without overeating.
It was there that I caught up with chef Tim Luym of the WOW Silog Truck.Â I met Tim when he first opened Poleng Lounge and followed his success from there to Attic Restaurant and now his latest food truck project.Â He is one of those young chefs that is constantly creating and finding new innovative ways to promote Asian cuisine.Â Chef Tim was kind enough to talk with me for a few minutes, in the middle of his busy evening.
Chau:Â Wow, Tim!Â Congratulations!Â Why did you start a food truck? Â What was the genesis, and what is your mission?
Tim:Â I am always looking to try new ideas and explore different opportunities. The food truck idea was something on the back burner for several years but the timing was just right when we decided to launch the WOW Silog Truck. An old friend had sold silog plates from his parentsâ€™ grocery store one summer to raise money as a side project and so I approached him to see if he wanted to do it on a truck and just like that the WOW was born.
C:Â How do you think the food truck trend is going to help advance Asian cuisine and food?
T:Â The food truck trend is America’s answer to street food. Street food culture is huge in Asia and Central and South America. Because safety and sanitation standards are much better here in the U.S, food carts and trucks are the equivalent to street food vendors and hawkers abroad. Just one example of the impact of street food vendors is in Filipino cuisine.Â There are almost more reputable and mainstream trucks than there are restaurants.Â (Adobo Hobo, Lumpia Cart, Senor Sisig, Hapa San Francisco, WOW Silog Truck). It’s an awesome way to expose a cuisine to the masses.
C:Â Do you think the food truck phenomenon will be a passing trend or a permanent change in the American lifestyle?
T:Â Food trucks have been a part of the American lifestyle throughout the years. It is not a new concept. The only difference now is the quality and creativity behind the next generation of trucks. Now that food has been more openly explored because of blogs, the Internet, the Food Network, Top Chef, etc, more and more people are looking to the food and beverage industry to ‘live their dreams’. A food truck is an option for those who do not have the resources to open a brick and mortar establishment.
C:Â Do you think the food truck platform can be utilized to advance creative menus and test interesting and novel ingredients and/or combinations?
T:Â Yes!Â The skyâ€™s the limit with the possibilities. A food truck is literally a mobile kitchen. Ingredients and technology are things you can put in any kitchen.
C:Â How do you see the dynamics, challenges and opportunities among rolling restaurants (food trucks), pop-up restaurants and fixed (permanent) restaurants?
T:Â Brick and mortar restaurants have a lot of challenges that mobile food trucks may not have to take into consideration. Mobile food trucks have other challenges that brick and mortar places may not need to worry about. As long as the operators are respectful of each otherâ€™s businesses, I think that there is room for everyone to succeed.
C:Â How does street food here in San Francisco and Los Angeles compare with street food in Asia? Â Why do you think it’s taken so long for the concept to take hold here? Â What’s going to make street food successful here?
T:Â Street food in Asia is a cultural must. I think eating is the #1 pastime for most people in Asia, especially in Third World countries where material objects are of less importance and family, friends and religion come first. San Francisco and Los Angeles have awesome food in general. However, the original American street food, the hot dog, has its place in the street food world.
As the U.S. becomes a bigger melting pot of cultures, multicultural cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are in the forefront of providing more variety of cultural foods. Whether it is mobile or a brick and mortar, as long as people are willing to try it (thanks to Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern) then street foods will continue to become more and more a part of everyday life.
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