New food truck owner hopes to ignite a new street scene and culinary entrepreneurs

John Rumery


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 [email protected]


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