Los Angeles has the taco truck that tweets.
Portland, OR has an online guide to their entire food truck culture. The Food Network has a reality show about
food trucks racing across the country. And if Paul Lee, owner of The Winchester, has his way, Grand Rapids, MI, will be the next great culinary
scene for food trucks.
Within weeks, Lee will be introducing his
"What the Truck," a mobile food concession featuring fresh,
affordable meals for lunch, dinner and late-night service. Although an
extension of The Winchester, it will have its own unique fusion-inspired menu
while retaining The Winchester's focus on local suppliers and ingredients. It
will also be available for catering.
Lee acknowledges that the name of his venture
is not only a "little tongue in cheek," but also reflects his angst when
dealing the ordinances of establishing a mobile culinary presence in downtown
Grand Rapids. He can appreciate the plight of downtown restaurant owners who
were upset with street vendors that set up shop outside their establishments,
but he feels the ordinances miss the bigger picture of what a street truck culture
can contribute to the downtown scene.
"When you go to cities like Portland, where
parts of the city are dedicated to food trucks, you can see the people out and
about in the city for the attraction of those trucks," Lee says.
Reinforcing his vision was a discussion he
had with actress Sarah Wright, who was at The Winchester during the filming of
the Kurt Russell movie, "Touchback." Lee claims her eyes lit up when
he discussed his plans for What the Truck, and that Wright indicated that the cuisine
on the food trucks were far superior to many caterers that featured no
creativity in their menu.
Despite his frustrations with city ordinances,
Lee is optimistic. He notes the great work of a taco truck handling 28th
street as a building block. He also feels that his truck, which will feature a "very
strong social media strategy," will be the first of many of culinary initiatives
that will ignite other food entrepreneurs to introduce their own innovative
take on mobile catering. As long as you have access to a commissary, "it's much
less of an investment to open up a food truck than a restaurant."
Lee hopes to add up to ten employees as the
scene grows. For more information, follow What the Truck on their Facebook page.
John Rumery is the Innovation
and Jobs Editor for Rapid Growth Media. He is an educator, board member of
AimWest, WYCE music programmer, entrepreneur, raconteur and competitive
barbecuer living in Grand Rapids, MI.
He can be reached at InnovationandJobs@RapidGrowthMedia.com
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