ORANGE COUNTY, Ca. November 11, 2011—The food truck phenomenon is well established in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, to the delight of budget-minded foodies.
Pioneer Kogi BBQ set the trend for chefs looking to start a business but short on financial resources. Fans follow their favorites on Twitter and discover new ones at truck roundups. Food trucks have demonstrated the viability of concepts with bold flavors, ethnic twists and global blending. Buyers experiment because the price is comparable to fast food but the dishes wildly different.
SlapFish, a modern seafood truck, was created by partners Chef Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naude. They chose the food truck setting for its advantages in the current economy. “It is much easier to bring the ‘restaurant’ to the customer than wait for them to come to you,” said Gruel.
Gruel’s commitment to sustainable seafood is heartfelt and research based. Before starting SlapFish he was director of Seafood for the Future at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, assisting other chefs in developing seafood menus with sustainable choices.
Slapfish makes the freshest restaurant quality seafood available at food truck prices with menu items such as their Lobsticle, Tower of Tuna, and “Because We Have To” Fish Taco. They shop twice a day and source much of their product directly and locally from American Tuna (San Diego) and Carlsbad Aquafarm (Carlsbad), for seafood served at the peak of freshness and flavor.
CULINARY QUEST: How did you come up with the name?
CHEF ANDREW: We love onomatopoeia (words that imitate a sound). We want people to “hear” the fresh fish slapping around on the dock. In addition, the name matches our character and sense of humor. We like to slap things.
CQ: How, why did you decide to start a food truck?
CA: We started a food truck because it is a great way to hedge against a slow restaurant economy. It is much easier to bring the “restaurant” to the customer than wait for them to come to you.
CQ: What is a typical day like for you?
CA: Honestly on a food truck you will work more than in a restaurant because you have to take into consideration loading the truck every single day. You can’t prep and then leave it in the walk-in, there is no walk in. Also we don’t have deliveries, we have to get our product ourselves every single day. My day starts at 6 am and end many nights at 1 am.
CQ: What do you enjoy about contact with the public?
CA: People who eat at food trucks love to eat, they are there for a reason, and not because they needed to grab some sustenance. They are true foodies and all have a story to tell.
CQ: What’s the best thing about a truck vs. a restaurant?
CA: The best thing about the truck vs. a restaurant is the mobility, the opportunity to be a in a new place every day attracting a new clientele. Also, the marketing power of a rolling billboard that cooks is the best marketing in the world! The worst part is storage and mechanical issues. I tell people, take the stress of a restaurant and add traffic and mechanical issues.
CQ: How is food truck food different from restaurant food?
CA: Fewer items and the flavors have to be bold and somewhat in your face. Spicy, acidic, hot and finger ready. People also want large portions. The “amuse” style of food does not really fly on a food truck.
CQ: Do you have any loyalty programs in place?
CA: We have a Slap Me card. After 10 purchases on your card the 11th meal is free.
CQ: Do you want to have a restaurant someday?
CA: We have already signed a lease on a spot set to open early 2012 called SlapFish Test Kitchen.
Potato chip and horseradish crusted trout
1. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, add the grapeseed oil. Season the trout with salt and pepper. When the oil is barely smoking, add the trout flesh side down into the hot pan. Cook on each side for 3 minutes.
2. While the trout is cooking, mix the mustard, lemon juice, sugar and horseradish in a bowl. In a separate bowl add the finely crushed potato chips and dill.
3. When the trout is finished cooking, place the fillets flesh side up on a baking sheet. Coat the hot fillets with the mustard-horseradish mixture first, then press the potato chip-dill into the glaze. Serve immediately over mixed greens.
Chef Andrew Gruel