Posted On: 06/01/2011
Chef Brian Hardesty started in the biz as a teenager washing dishes at a St. Charles restaurant. After stints working at eateries in Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis, he returned to St. Louis, spending time at fine dining establishments such as Balaban’s, Monarch, Harvest and, most recently, Terrene, where he was the executive chef. Hardesty’s pal, Joel Crespo, is a self-professed “food enthusiast” who is switching from a career in TV and film production to join Hardesty in a business venture that entails driving around St. Louis in a 23-foot truck outfitted to bring Filipino-inspired food to the streets. Meet the minds behind Guerrilla Street Food, which hits the road this month.
What’s the concept behind Guerrilla Street Food?
Crespo: A lot of the dishes we are serving are Filipino-influenced but they are not authentic Filipino dishes. We are doing our own interpretation of them and adapting them for a street-food scenario.
How about some menu highlights?
Hardesty: Lechón. We’ll use the pork belly instead of a whole pig, and slow roast it and serve it on handmade bao bun or over rice. We took the idea of siopao and turned it into this open-faced thing where it wasn’t this static recipe that this specific kind of meat and sauce get stuffed into this bun. Instead it is more versatile. You choose what kind of meat is in there.
Crespo: Pork adobo offered over rice or in sandwich form on pan de sal. Tocino: Filipino bacon. It’s very sweet and sticky and yummy. We’ll probably offer it in a sandwich form as well as a salad.
How difficult has it been to turn your food truck idea into a reality?
Hardesty: Very difficult. It’s the tightest budget you can possibly imagine.
Crespo: We’re calling in a lot of favors.
Tell me about how the truck is outfitted.
Hardesty: We bought a gutted truck that was used to deliver laundry and are turning it into a fully health-inspected kitchen. … We have our hood system, a triple sink, a service window, a tabletop convection oven and a wok induction burner – stuff that doesn’t give off crazy heat and that doesn’t take that much power because we are going all electric.
Tell me about the licensing process.
Crespo: The city [of St. Louis] has been really cooperative and embracing the food truck movement. It’s kind of a Wild West status, where no one knows exactly what the policies are.
Hardesty: We’ve been talking to the mayor’s press secretary. They are trying to figure out what the best rules are and not taking rules for hot dog carts – but that’s their only model right now. Hopefully, they are going to be looking at other cities that have a complete system in [place] and taking the best of those. All the food trucks are going to be coming together to have one voice in any meetings we will have with the city or the county. The city is about to put out a new license called a “roaming vendor’s license.”
Don’t you think it’s curious you are dealing with the mayor’s office instead of some business department?
Crespo: They are progressive-thinking. How we hooked up is through Twitter. The whole social networking thing cut through a lot of the bureaucracy.
Have you dealt with St. Louis County at all?
Crespo: We visited a couple city halls to inquire about what we needed to do. The county is a little bit slower on the acceptance of food trucks.
Hardesty: Their basic response was, “We don’t do that” or “We don’t know what you’re talking about.” We will continue to press them to, if they are not going to allow us, give us some written reason why.
Crespo: Hopefully, the popularity of the food truck movement itself will catch on and they will be like, “Wow! We want this in the county too!”
So what’s the problem?
Hardesty: Brick-and-mortar restaurants think that there is going to be business taken away from them. We’re trying for the people that are walking down the street, not the people making reservations at their favorite place for dinner. I want to see fresh, well-prepared food available to everybody who has $5 in their pocket.
Guerrilla Street Food
For the second part of this interview, click here.
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