What do you get when you combine the two internationally acclaimed pastimes of cars and food? The food truck, where gustatory urges can be satisfied at a mini-restaurant that just so happens to be supported by the chassis of a machine on wheels.
Granted, food trucks haven’t always been in fashion, and only since late last decade have they become popular with the in-crowd. Truth be told, they were usually thought to be an unsanitary, uncouth way to grab a meal, unless the direst need to grub presented itself. Now, the stereotype has taken a sharp turn, and Southern California food trucks are perceived as a source for open-minded and loyal aficionados of cuisine. The would-be owners of these trucks, too, now come from unexpected places, like advertising, and are the practical kind, who just want to start a business that requires no rent and “far less start-up capital” (Katy McLaughlin, Wall Street Journal).
Attuned to the inner-workings of the market, the owners of these popular trucks have effectively mobilized social media support, appealing to the grab-and-go youth culture, while sustaining “underground” consumer loyalty. This is especially true in Los Angeles, which is home to 15 of the “101 Best Food Trucks of 2013,” according to DailyMeal.com, which applied the criteria of followers, reviews, and originality.
Specifically, the ingenuity that goes into being different can’t go overlooked because it’s a key reason why so many of Southern California’s food trucks have succeeded. From The Border Grill (authentic Mexican food), the Vizzi Truck (French-style cooking), to Seoul Sausage (South Korean flavors), and Slap Yo Mama (New Orleans-esque), the influence of globalization can be identified with a single bite. But even more impressive are the trucks that have fused tastes from different cultures and regions, such as Fist of Fusion (Hawaiian and Filipino) and Komodo (Asian and Mexican).
Standing atop the food truck universe—and arguably the forerunner of the entire movement—is So-Cal’s Kogi BBQ, which is renowned for amalgamating Korean and Mexican flavors. It was co-founded by former valedictorian of the Culinary Institute of America, Roy Choi, who has harnessed the power of word of mouth and Twitter to apprise seekers of Kogi’s “Spicy Pork Tacos,” “Kimchi Quesadillas” and “Short-Rib Sliders,” to name a few.
By deftly riding the “same cultural movement that produced Obama” (Andrew Romano, Newsweek), the Kogi venture has been a rousing achievement for Choi, who can deservedly boast about 128,000 Twitter followers, 39,500 Facebook likes, a newfound status thanks to The Food Network, and the expansion of the Kogi brand from one to five trucks in all. Of course, ever the avant-garde entrepreneur, Choi isn’t done yet, as he currently has his sights set on the notion of Kogi being delivered, on demand, to “underserved areas” via the tap of an app (Rosa Trieu, Forbes).
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