One of the more frequent refrains being sung around Houston is that the food truck scene is dying. More and more of the first wave of new school trucks are going brick and mortar, and most of the ones that haven't are considering the possibility.
Yet, for some chefs, life on the road has a certain allure: Everything from being your own boss to cooking a menu that speaks to you. It's an attitude captured in the movie Chef, which the movie's culinary consultant shared in an interview with CultureMap.
Chef Jay Stone, who briefly made a splash with the Wicked Whisk food truck before moving on to stops that include Vallone's and Jasper's in The Woodlands, understands the lure of life on the road and wants to get back on the street. Flipping the script on truck veterans H-Town StrEATs, who just used Kickstarter to fund their brick and mortar donut shop, Stone has taken to the site to raise $40,000 for a new food truck called Chingu that will serve Korean-inspired fare.
"To go in and cook somebody else’s food, it’s just boring to me. I need to do my own thing. Chingu is going to be that for me."
"I did my own thing for a long time at Wicked Whisk," Stone tells CultureMap, "For me as a chef, you want to be able to do your own thing on a daily basis." Stone says he "doesn't mind working at Jasper’s . . . (because) it’s a good work/life balance."
Still, he'd prefer to be back out on his own. "To go in and cook somebody else’s food, it’s just boring to me. I need to do my own thing. Chingu is going to be that for me."
Stone explains that Chingu will blend the Korean food his wife taught him to love with New Mexican favorites and Southern staples. Expect to find Korean fried chicken, "a good, hand-crafted burger" and "hand-cut fries with a really funky poutine." Sides will run a similarly eclectic gamut — everything from fresh baked biscuits to kimchi.
Stone says that making sure Chingu is family friendly is important to him as both a business person who's cognizant of his market and a father. Therefore, Chingu will also serve a kid's menu featuring Korean popcorn chicken and a special kid's burger.
So far, the project has attracted fewer than 50 backers and raised less than $5,000, but the rewards are solid. For example, pledging $40 earns that same amount back in food and an apron. The chef plans to host a pop-up or two to preview the menu and garner more widespread support.
Stone is realistic about the prospects of Houstonians supporting the cause. "My target audience has been more local up here, but it’s a cool idea. I’ve just got my fingers crossed," Stone says.
"My wife does, too. She doesn’t want me to lose the house. Of course, I’d never let that happen."