Sunday, May 30, 2010
Corporate Food Trucks
The SF Weekly had a great article last week. Somehow, I missed it but I just read it. I hope that people can see my beef with Mobi Munch is bigger than Baohaus or Chairman Bao or the Chairman Bao Truck. This blog isn't meant to promote baohaus, it was started as a resource to talk about starting a restaurant and now running one. So, with that in mind, I'm not going to bore you guys with what we plan to do concerning the violation of our chairman bao mark.
I do want to talk about the larger issue though concerning Corporate Street Food. I felt SF Weekly laid out both sides VERY well. These guys are applebees, PF Chang's, etc. "vets". Need I say more? They see a market to expose and they have a business model to efficiently pair people with trucks for their particular market. They are completely deteriorating the independent, creative, and spontaneous aspects of food trucks. The whole scheme is very pre-meditated and formulaic. Perhaps you just don't care and want pork buns in your neighborhood, but I still feel there needs to be some integrity and a personal touch.
As much as I hate "foodies", there has really been a "revolution" of sorts concerning food in America. From gastropubs (thanks spotted pig) to pork buns to stinky tofu, the last ten years have been great for American culinary history. Never in my life did I think I could sit back, hit my roor, and watch Andrew Zimmern eat Taiwanese food at Shilin. It's great. BUT, supporting these corporate food trucks and franchising the last 10 years of culinary creativity, plateaus our growth. This is what I mean.... There's PLENTY more work to do. New York could use some more food from Singapore or Peru or even tackling the challenge of evolving New York cuisine. What is it? I dunno, but it interests me. We're not done and we can still do better! Now is not the time to spend our dollars on watered down concepts. By supporting these things, our dollars are tied up in vanilla market offerings that don't progress food culture in America.
I mean, even in our family, we plan to do one more by the end of 2010. We got ideas! A whole new concept. Who knows, maybe after that, I'll work on expanding and taking the concepts to new locales, but if I did, I would tweak the menu to fit local flavors, tastes, and culinary history. Each spot would have something new. I don't think expansion is a bad thing, but you have to always push yourself to be genuine and original. At least that's how I feel. Its great to share your work with more people, I love that part of my job. But, I try to give people different looks. For instance, at hester st. fair, we served Kim Jong's ILL Noodles. The first day, we used Mama O's Kimchi made from cabbage. The second day, we used Skim Kim made of cucumbers. It was done intentionally so that I would stay entertained and people would have a reason to come back. You can do business several ways. One way is to target markets, see what the market needs and package it in the most efficient way possible. Which is what I think Mobi Truck is doing.
When efficiency and profits are the primary goals though, you sacrifice quality and I think craft. Food is art. I strongly believe that. Its just edible art. If you want a definition of art, read Tolstoy, but I'm not getting into it here. The point is, we need to respect our craft. That doesn't mean table cloths, garnish, or a star system, but I do think it has something to do with integrity, originality, and honesty. Mobi Truck... if you think your product has those three things, I'll shut the fuck up. But, from where I'm sitting, I can't see it. I would love to be proven wrong though.......
Lastly, thanks to Stuartvision for the truck!!! He made me a toy truck with baohaus and xiao ye stuff from the blog all over it! The bottom is the Chairman Bao Truck run over haha.