The movie, “Chef” shows what life is like when you run a food truck. We just ate up the movie (read our review) but couldn’t stop thinking about Denver’s food truck scene as we watched. Denver’s scene is growing and thriving. What’s it really like to run a food truck in Denver? We asked two popular food truck purveyors and got some interesting answers.
From Comida Cantina at The Source – Rajas y Crema Gordita, The Sirloin Situation and Stella’s Pork Carnitas tacos.
Rayme Rossello wanted to be an actress in New York. In the grand tradition of actors, she became a great waitress while attending theater school. One day, Rosello fell in love with dining in a way that made her want to change her career goals. “I was always front of the house, never in the kitchen. I loved serving. I loved what it was like to be served when it was gracious and great,” she says.
After moving to Colorado, Rossello worked for several restaurants and was part owner in a couple as well. “Then I decided I wanted to get uncomfortable doing something I hadn’t done before,” she says, and signed up for pastry school. She came out of the five week program absolutely sure she never wanted to be a pastry chef. “And probably never bake another cake if I didn’t have to,” she adds.
In 2010, she decided to start the food truck, which she named Tina. Rossello’s family is southern, but her mother lived in Mexico for a decade. “Those were flavors I loved, so I blended the two together and, with a couple of friends who literally jumped on board, like in the movie, developed the recipes in my head and brought them to life.” They kept the menu small and simple. “It’s Mexican street food, everyday snacks,” she explains. Rossello’s items range from $3-$8. She uses local food whenever possible and makes everything from scratch except for the tortillas. Favorite items are the Sirloin Situation Taco and the Slow Cooked Mushroom Gordita.
Life on the food truck is “the hardest work I’ve ever done but also really fun,” says Rossello. It’s very physical work, getting on and off the truck all day, making everything, driving, selling and cleaning. “It’s as hot as a kitchen but hotter because you’re in this metal box,” she says. “But in the winter, it’s cold. And then the truck breaks down or the generator breaks down and the truck is down. It can cost a lot of money.”
In “Chef,” the food truck makes its way across the country, stopping to sell in various cities along the way. Rossello, who saw the movie, says that’s unrealistic because you have to get licensed ahead of time in every state which takes time. “But hey, it’s a movie,” she says. “The rest – the dancing, laughing, singing, having your kids on the truck helping and having lines outside the window were realistic. It’s really fun.”
In 2012, Rossello opened her first restaurant, also called Comida, (which means “food” in Spanish), in Longmont and opened a second location at The Source in Denver, in 2013. She considers the food truck a rolling billboard for the restaurants. Her truck can primarily be found in office parks and doing private parties. “It’s the hardest way I’ve ever made a living but it got me here so I’m grateful for it every day.”
The EBS (Emergency Bacon System) hamburger with freshly ground chuck and bacon burger, topped with green chilies and aged white cheddar.
Under David Levine’s name on his business card, it says “Burgermeister.” Hamburgers are his favorite food. Levine prefers more bistro style hamburgers with something unique and different about them. With some experience working in restaurants when he was younger, but no formal culinary training (“except for getting my chops up for the truck”), Levine decided to open his Burger Radio food truck to bring his style of burger to the Denver market. That was five years ago.
Burger Radio has a “burger lab” theme, complete with antennae on top, inspired by Levine’s love of comic book and super hero characters (think robots and aliens trying to take over the world). “We think of ourselves as ‘burger slinging vigilantes’.” Menu items include high-frequency-themed items such as The Marconi, Pirate Radio and the EBS – Emergency Bacon System.
Despite hours that run 5am to midnight six days a week, Levine says “It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done.” He and his team jokingly equate working in the food truck with working in a submarine. “It can get very hot in there but after working throughout last winter (except for a couple of weeks off), I don’t mind.” These days, Burger Radio can mostly be found outside of breweries which rarely have kitchens. To Levine, it’s a natural pairing for his burgers.
Levine is enjoying being part of the burgeoning Denver food truck scene. “I was surprised to find the great camaraderie between the food truck community. It’s not as competitive as I thought it would be,” he says, “People help each other out-it’s one big team in a sense.” Levine says, however, that with regulations developing, it can be two steps forward and two steps back, putting them all on common ground. “My expectations continue to be exceeded. I love working in Denver.”