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Friday, December 16, 2011

America’s Love Affair With Food Trucks

photo
Chairman Bao,  Bun Truck, food truck. (Flickr/Lynn Friedman)Vertskebap uses a Smart Car to sell food around Austin, TX.(Flickr/colmmcsky)(Flickr/calamity_hane)(Flickr/Bob B. Brown)(Flickr/ricardodiaz11)

In cities, food trucks seem to be on every other street corner. But these are not your grandfather’s food trucks selling burgers at the work sites– these trucks hawk gourmet grilled cheeses, lobster rolls, cupcakes! And the vehicles can range in size from a double decker bus to a smart car.

Such is our obsession with mobile dining that the California food truck company Armenco is doubling its annual output. There’s also a TV show devoted to food trucks called “The Great Food Truck Race,” and an online magazine, “Mobile Cuisine.”

Will Food Trucks Hurt Restaurants?

While some traditional restaurateurs have opened trucks of their own, others feel like food trucks represent unfair competition. But Richard Myrick, editor of Mobile-Cuisine Magazine, argues that food truck meals most likely replace fast food meals, not fine restaurant dining. And the trucks do not get away with less regulation.

“To be honest, the food trucks are probably regulated more than the restaurants are,” Myrick told Here and Now‘s Robin Young.

“The fact is, they have to have a commercial kitchen that they are licensed through. That’s where they’re going to do a lot of the prep work for the food before it comes onto the truck. The truck itself also has to meet regulations [and] health department inspections,” Myrick said.

Food trucks are a way for chefs and other culinary entrepreneurs to establish a food business. Often these are trained chefs who don’t yet have the capital to open a store front restaurant, or have lost jobs from restaurants that have closed. Other trucks are opened by people who want to start their own business; for those without a food background, companies like Mobi Munch sells mobile Qdoba franchises, training franchisees in business skills and culinary arts.

From Latin American To Scandinavian Food

Almost every kind of food can be found on food trucks. Myrick thought the last hold out might have been Scandinavian food, but the SwedeDish truck in Orlando has now filled this hole. A lot of Asian and Latin American cuisines are featured in trucks and Myrick tells us that many of those meals have fusion twists: “Take Kogi BBQ — you’ve got a Korean barbecue in a taco so someone can order it, walk away from the truck and can continue eating.”

Guest:

  • Richard Myrick, editor of Mobile-Cuisine Magazine

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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