Food trucks may not be quite as trendy as they once were, but the right concept can capture diners' attention. Just consider the wave of praise that's greeted the recent arrival of Cousins Maine Lobster. While trucks are still subject to burdensome regulations, even established restaurant groups are recognizing the possibilities associated with a mobile kitchen.
Gr8 Plate Hospitality, the restaurant group behind local mini-chain The Union Kitchen and more upscale Paul's Kitchen, is one restaurant group that sees the potential in a food truck. In July, the company will launch The Rolling Kitchen, which will serve a menu of Cajun classics. Behind the wheel — and at the stove — is local chef Mike McElroy, a well-traveled restaurant veteran with extensive cooking experience in both New Orleans and Houston.
Gr8 Plate Hospitality, the restaurant group behind local mini-chain The Union Kitchen and more upscale Paul's Kitchen, is one restaurant group that sees the potential in a food truck.
The truck is consistent with Gr8 Plate's other branding. The wrap will feature the same crossed fork and knife logo found at both The Union Kitchen and Paul's Kitchen, and its "eat real food" tagline emphasizes that all of the dishes are made from scratch with good quality ingredients.
While the company is still working on an exact debut date and schedule for the truck, McElroy hopes to spend at least a couple of nights per week at Sassafras, the Oak Forest bar where he hosted a popular steak night.
Asked about what made him to hit the streets, McElroy notes that he has an opportunity to design his own menu, "I've been doing this for 20 years. I can be anyone's sous chef. It was time for a change." Then he offers another explanation. "Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment."
For Gr8 Plate culinary director and Paul's Kitchen executive chef Paul Lewis, McElroy fit a role the company had been looking to fill for some time. "We were looking to hire a sous chef," Lewis says. "We ended up speaking to Mike, and Mike was saying ‘I want to stay in Houston for a couple more years. My long-term goal is to open a food truck.’ It was, like, ‘a ha!' It isn’t often you come across someone with that level of talent and drive. It was just a good fit."
With dishes like boudain balls stuff with pepperjack cheese, pork shank terrine and shrimp etoufee over French fries, The Rolling Kitchen has a definite Cajun perspective. McElroy has still put his own spin on some of the dishes; for example, the muffaletta features lavender-brined, smoked chicken. Asked to describe the cuisine, McElroy says his goal is to be original but "not (to have) so much of a twist that people from Louisiana will hate it."
With his previous experience at both Cullen's and Osteria Mozzantini, Lewis has seen a lot of change in Houston's culinary scene. He has a good feeling about McElroy's prospects. "He’s someone we’re very excited about. Mike’s a very talented cook. It’s going to be pretty successful."