Archive for the ‘Los Angeles County’ Category

Wyss Catering Trucks: Interview with Mike Wyss, president

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on May 21, 2010

Long before Road Stoves conceived of making a Kogi, Nom Nom or Grilled Cheese truck, Wyss Catering Trucks, based in Santa Fe Springs, California, began building trucks two decades ago. President Mike Wyss took a slightly different tack, and rather than responding to each of my questions individually, responded all at once. I’ll list my questions below, and then his email, unedited, after that.

1) So are you guys the grand-daddy of LA taco truck manufacturers? Tell me how you got started.

2) How does one go about ordering a truck from you? What do they cost? What are the options on the low and high end? Can one buy a used truck? What should a prospective truck owner look for in a truck? How much can they be customized?

3) How has the manufacture of taco trucks changed since you’ve been in business?

4) What do you make of the recent uptick in these gourmet twittering food trucks? Are there options that are popular with them that aren’t as popular with more traditional food trucks?

5) What’s the coolest or most unique truck you’ve ever made? What’s in the future for your business?

Dear Sir,

We have been in the catering truck making business for 20 years here in our present location and the owners father and uncle started back in 1953. We worked at the other place until breaking away in 1990.

Most people visit our web site and request information, which we then send. A standard kitchen can range from $85,000.00 up to $115,000.00 depending on regulations in the customers area. We also customize trucks to fit what the customer wants to serve. As far as used trucks, most were built under old laws and in California for instance, they would not be approved unless they are brought up to code.

Two years ago this July, California changed its laws regarding MFPU (mobile food processing unit). They now require all equipment be NSF approved. We are finding more areas of the US are going in this direction also. This is why we have all customers contact their local health department for their particular regulations.

As far as the gourmet trucks, they are all different except for people just starting out. They usually lease an existing truck from a catering house. They cannot buy them as they would then have to bring it up to present codes. The standard cost on that would be around $40,000.00 and that is to much to put into an older truck.

In the past most of the trucks me made were route trucks or movie studio trucks. In 1994 we made the first IN-N-OUT truck. Since then we have made trucks for Carls Jr., Hot Dog on a Stick, Ben and Jerry’s, Tommy’s Hamburgers and more. We recently made a truck called The Sweets Truck and Border Grill. We have made Pizza trucks and all manner of different trucks. We have built search and rescue trucks for San Bernardino Sheriff and Long Beach Police to name a few.

Our business is really tied to construction and related businesses. At the present time, it is really slow and the gourmet catering trucks keep the doors open.

Regards,

Mike Wyss
President

There’s more to street food than food trucks on Twitter

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on February 24, 2010

Firstly, I apologize for the lack of posting since the wildly successful Tour de Taco (muchas gracias, amigos!), but I have to call the San Francisco Bay Guardian out on this statement: “In fact, outside of Fruitvale taco trucks and the odd ambitious cupcakers at Art Murmur, I haven’t seen a street food vendor anywhere in the East Bay.”

Robyn, I’m glad that you’re writing about one of my favorite topics, but clearly you haven’t looked much beyond Twitter. Get on a bike, on a bus, on BART, in a car — you’ll find tons of street food in Oakland and the rest of the East Bay.

For starters, try this map of taco trucks. Richmond, Berkeley, other parts of Oakland, Castro Valley, Fremont have loads of trucks. These guys pre-date Twitter by a longshot.

If you want something a little more nouveau, try LibaSF, Seoul on Wheels or Cupkates.

You’re welcome. :-)

Boyle Heights street vendors get hit with police crackdown

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 20, 2009

Despite the fact that East LA finally got a light rail line this week, the Los Angeles Times is also reporting on the crackdown on Boyle Height‘s illegal street vendors.

The impromptu — and illegal — nighttime food market drew the attention of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar more than a year ago after neighbors complained about noise, trash, and crowded sidewalks slick with cooking oil. As the economy soured, nearby businesses selling similar foods also asked the police for help addressing unlicensed vending. Working with Huizar’s staff, L.A. County health inspectors and the Los Angeles Police Department began enforcing state food safety laws and the city’s ban on street vending, targeting vendors cooking over open flames.

But the crackdown intensified in recent weeks after the city’s grand opening of the revamped Hollenbeck police station and as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepared to welcome Angelenos from across the city to the Eastside with the Gold Line extension. Frequent visits by police have now scattered the Breed Street vendors, some of whom have been selling there for more than a decade, to quieter, less-profitable corners of Boyle Heights. Several now are putting out word of their new locations on Twitter to a committed following of foodies.

Other fun facts about this case:

Around the same time [in 2006], Councilman Tony Cardenas grew frustrated with the city’s reliance on overworked L.A. County health inspectors to confiscate food and equipment. After his office fielded calls from parents who said their children had been sickened after eating from illegal carts near schools, he asked city lawyers to explore creating a division of city inspectors who could confiscate illegal food and carts without county inspectors present. Cardenas said he was told it was not feasible. Last fiscal year, the city’s street investigators charged 178 people with street vending violations.

“With 10 million people in the county, and 4 million people in the city, it’s hard for us to be able to attack the problem,” said Cardenas, who created a city-county task force within his district that targeted illegal carts. “All we’re able to do is hit hot spots on a temporary basis,” Cardenas said.

Terrance Powell, the county health department’s director of specialized surveillance and enforcement, said 17 of his inspectors oversee the 15,710 licensed mobile food facilities across the county that range from catering trucks to push carts selling ice cream.

Another team of 10 is devoted to confiscating food and cooking equipment from illegal street vendors, which number at least 15,000 across L.A. County. Last fiscal year, that team conducted 2,300 inspections and confiscated more than 39,000 pounds of food.

Huizar’s office asked county inspectors if they could check on Breed Street as often as once a month, but a one-shift sweep costs as much as $4,000.

Vendors and local officials are trying to work out a deal where the vendors could operate “hot food farmers market on weekend nights near their old location,” to open by early next year.

Road Stoves supplies many of LA’s newest trucks

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on October 19, 2009

So you know how there’s all these new trendy Twittering trucks hitting the streets of Los Angeles these days? Well, just as there’s a new generation of trucks, there’s a new generation of truck vendors too. Many of these fancy-pants trucks — Nom Nom, Kogi, Marked5 and others — are supplied by Road Stoves, a downtown Los Angeles truck company.

These guys do the whole deal: permits, insurance, maintenance, marketing and all the rest.

As Los Angeles Downtown News reports:

Road Stoves has received hundreds of food truck proposals, Appel said, the majority of which it rejects. Some were duplicate ideas of what is already on the streets, or trucks they feel won’t deliver the type of quality cuisine that will ensure the trend outlasts the hype.

“We had people that wanted to do noodles, but you can’t boil the noodles on the truck unless it’s the Top Ramen kind where you throw hot water on them, and for that you really don’t need a gourmet truck,” [co-owner Morris Appel] said.

[Co-owner Josh Hiller] added, “When someone comes to us and says, ‘I want to do exactly what so and so is doing,’ we don’t feel that’s the best way to enter the marketplace.”

The article also includes the first reaction from some of the more classic trucks that I’ve seen so far — I want to believe that the market is big enough for everyone.

Juan Torres, president of the Asociación de Loncheros L.A. Familia Unida de California (Caterers Association L.A. United Family of California), which represents food truck drivers in the city, said many of the newcomers bring positive attention to the industry.

“They look good, they’re well managed and clean, and that makes all of the industry look better,” he said.

Appel said within the next five years Road Stoves plans on going national. In the meantime, they have a few new trucks in development, with operators prepping a grilled cheese truck, a gourmet hot dog truck and a dessert truck.

“The food is the most important thing,” Appel said. “As long as it’s good food this can go on forever.”

Get Shaved: Interview with Kristin Roskowick, Co-Founder

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on August 11, 2009

I’ve never heard of a shaved ice truck before, so I pinged Get Shaved for the inside scoop. Kristin Roskowick, a co-founder, responded to my queries.

1) Why shaved ice from a truck? Aren’t trucks hot, with like griddles and burners and stuff? How do you keep it cold enough? Why not a pushcart?

When my husband and I were brainstorming ideas for our first business, we decided we wanted to do a shave ice and ice cream store because one, I’m a frozen dessert fanatic, and two, it is hard to find authentic Hawaiian style shave ice around here. We had two issues that we came across. One: we did not have enough money saved up to do the store the way we wanted to and it was nearly impossible for us to get a small business loan to cover the difference since we had no prior experience with owning a business (banks require a minimum of two years being in business before they will give you a loan — we couldn’t even get a business credit card!!) and, two, at that time (about two years ago), commercial leases were, what my husband and I considered, unreasonably high and we were concerned that we would be setting ourselves up for failure if we took on that kind of overhead. I think we were right for the most part because since then so many small businesses have gone under, due in part to their unaffordable leases.

Thus, we decided instead to create a mobile shave ice and ice cream store which required lower startup costs. Also, we believed it was less risky than a store because we would be able to go where the customers are.

Our truck was custom made specifically for shave ice and ice cream so there are no griddles and burners and stuff. We have a freezer that fits about 350 lbs. of block ice, an ice cream dipping cabinet which fits about 4 3-gallon tubs of ice cream, and a condiment refrigerator where we store our backup syrups, condensed milk, et cetera.

I think it’s obvious when you see the picture of our van that there is much more of a wow factor to our van than a pushcart which allows us to reach a much broader clientele. Also, we wanted a store on wheels and a pushcart did not give us sufficient storage space for ice cream, all of our syrup flavors (most pushcarts offer 4 or 5 flavors maximum, we offer over 20 flavors), and ice. We would also have to tow a pushcart which is much more of a hassle to park and unload versus driving up with our van.

2) What’s your background? When did you start?

I have a B.A. in Economics and my husband has a B.S. in Physical Education and Health. Before starting our business, I was working as a contract administrator for the Exposition Light Rail Transit Line in Los Angeles, and my husband was a property manager in LA. When we met over ten years ago, we always knew we wanted our own business but we never had the means (i.e. funding) until about two years ago. Planning started about two years ago but our actual operations did not start until October 2008.

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Anti-Taco Truck law declared unconstitutional in Los Angeles County

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on August 27, 2008

This just in from Phil Greenwald, the attorney representing the taco trucks in unincorporated LA County hit by the ordinance from earlier this year:

Hi:

This morning in Department 1 of the Los Angeles Superior Court in the East Los Angeles Court House, the Hon. Dennis A. Aichroth ruled on a motion that I filed.

The motion (called a “demurrer”) asked the Court to declare Los Angeles County Code Section 7.62.070 “unconstitutional” and thereby render it unenforceable.

This is the so called “time limit ordinance” which prohibited street vendors (e.g., Taco Truck Operators) from: (1)remaining at one place more than one hour (in a commercial zone) or (2) for more than one half hour (in a residential zone) and (3) prohibiting them from returning to the previous location at which they had been selling, or (4) within one half mile of the previous location in any THREE HOUR PERIOD.

The Judge accepted my arguments notwithstanding the opposition filed by the District Attorney’s Office. The Judge ruled the ordinance “unconstitutional.”

Yea! We won!

Fraternally and sincerely,

Phil Greenwald

Huzzah!

KPCC: Remember the Taco Truck!

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on July 9, 2008

KPCC has released the audio of their May Zocalo forum about taco trucks online:

Remember the Taco Truck!

Moderated by C. Thi Nguyen, Chow Digest Editor at Chowhound.com

Sunday June 29th, 2008 at 9pm on 89.3 KPCC FM

Taco trucks are one of the cultural pillars of Los Angeles, but they could soon be a thing of the past. Led by Supervisor Gloria Molina, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has passed new anti-taco truck regulations. If the trucks don’t move every hour, they face $1000 in fines, and/or six months in jail.

To weigh in on the issue Zócalo convened a panel of writers, thinkers, and activists: Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold, Barry Glassner, author of The Gospel of Food, Miriam Torres, co-owner of Hermanas Torres taco truck, and Chris Rutherford, co-founder of co-founder of saveourtacotrucks.org, along with moderator C. Thi Nguyen. They describe the joys of the taco truck, their place in Los Angeles culture, and the effect of the legislation.

Recorded before a live audience at the Los Angeles Theatre Center as part of the Zócalo Public Square Lecture Series.

CafePress meets SaveOurTacoTrucks.org

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on June 3, 2008

CafePress’ Leslie Nuccio went down to LA recently to interview the masterminds behind SaveOurTacoTrucks.org. She and her team made a quick little video that is posted to the CafePress blog.

She asks the question: So, the question remains: are taco trucks unfair competition to a restaurant? And is that really the issue here?

Again, the LA County law violates California Vehicle Code, plain and simple. The law regulates “public safety,” not competition.

For those who need a reminder: CVC 22455 subsection b states: “A local authority may, by ordinance or resolution, adopt additional requirements for the public safety regulating any type of vending from vehicles upon any street.”

Update on La Flor de Suhayo

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on May 24, 2008

Kudos to The Associated Press for being the first nationwide news organization to cover the first ticketing of LA County taco trucks.

AP:

A truck called La Flor de Sahuayo was cited Wednesday by the parking enforcement detail after neighbors filed 20 complaints about it the past four months, said Sheriff’s Lt. Linda Martinez, who declined to detail the complaints.

Alejandro Valdovino, who owns the truck, said he parks it in front of his restaurant in East Los Angeles.

“The policeman arrived with the citation in his hand,” Valdovino said in Spanish in a phone interview Friday. “He didn’t tell me to move. He just came and handed me the ticket.”

“It’s not right what they’re doing,” he said.

Phillip Greenwald, a lawyer who has consulted with taco truck owners, said Valdovino received a misdemeanor citation, and faces up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail if convicted.

We’ll have an interview with Philip Greenwald next week, and with Northern California taco truck attorney David LeBeouf.

The first victim in the Taco Truck Wars of 2008

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on May 23, 2008

Well, we’ve got our new law served now with a side of tickets — La Flor de Suhayo got hit by LA County Sheriff’s deputies earlier this week.

The LA Times notes that Hoy, a Spanish-language daily in LA first reported the story (link in Spanish).

Here’s the Google machine translation:

East Los Angeles – has already started nightmare for many owners of “loncheras” of East Los Angeles, after the authorities fine, apparently for the first time, one of the owners of these businesses rolling for longer stay what is allowed in one place.

“The whole week had been working normally, each passing the ‘ticketera’ I moved and then returned to the place,” he told TODAY Alejandro Valdoviño, owner of the “lunch box” The Flower of Sahuayo, who was an infringement by agents of the Department of Sheriff.

Valdoviño explained that he parks their “lunch box” just in front of a restaurant owned bearing the same name. “Yesterday I had not even time to move, the police just came to the offense in his hand. I said that I move, and came just handed me the ticket, “he added Valdoviño adding that unknown quantity that will have to pay the fine because it does not specify the figure only indicates that they will have to present in court.

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