Surprising Facts about Food Trucks

October 26, 2021

Foodies have been enjoying a delicious selection of food from the most remarkable food trucks for years, but did you know that there is more to these mobile kitchens than meets the eye? Sure, you may have had a meal or two from a food truck before, but we’re convinced that these top 3 surprising facts about food trucks will surprise even the most experienced foodies!

SURPRISING FACT #1: The first food truck was created way back in 1886.

Prior to the inception of the funky food trucks that play booming music at live gigs and other similar events, there was Charles Goodnight, a Texas cattle rancher who is known to be the “father of the Texas Panhandle”. With cowboys constantly being on the go for months at a time as they herded cattle to distant markets, Charles came up with the chuck wagon. It turned out to be one of the most important innovations in history not only because it revolutionised how cowboys took care of themselves on long journeys, but because it also paved the way for the creation of mobile food trucks. He originally repurposed an old Studebaker-manufactured US Army wagon, which at the time was commonly used for this reason. However, they had limited storage capacity, so he added shelves to accommodate all their food and cooking equipment as well as medical supplies. This allowed beef ranchers like himself more convenience than ever before!

Food items that were easy to preserve comprised the chuckwagon menu, and this included: coffee, cornmeal, salted meats, sourdough bread, and dried beans. Moreover, unlike modern-day food trucks that stock up on frozen pre-bought meat such as ours, cowboys didn’t have fresh meat unless an animal was injured en route and had to be killed.

And might we just add: interestingly, though “Chuck” is a common nickname for those named “Charles”, the “chuck” in chuckwagons was actually derived from “chuck”, as in the cowboys’ slang term for food!

SURPRISING FACT #2: The first modern food truck, though, was opened in Los Angeles, California.

It goes by the name Kogi Korean BBQ, and it will be turning thirteen in a few weeks this November. Kogi was founded by a certain Mark Manguera, a Filipino raised in California and married into a Korean family. On a drunken night, as he was eating Mexican food with his sister, he came to question why no one has ever thought of fusing Korean BBQ with tacos—when in fact, so many Mexicans have been living in Koreatown at the time.

This vision was brought to life upon collaborating with his friend, Roy Choi, who at first thought that the idea was too basic. Do note that all this happened during The Great Recession in 2008, during which the economy was on the brink, and Choi, despite his culinary excellence (extra fun fact: he graduated valedictorian at the Culinary Institute of America!), had just gotten fired for getting deep into the weeds at his previous job.

All this to say, he still had a family to feed, so he didn’t have much choice but to just give Mark’s idea a shot.

The newfound partnership resulted in the two experimenting with flavours in Mark’s Koreatown kitchen. They ended up creating homemade corn tortillas that were griddled and packed with Korean barbecued short ribs, salsa roja, and cilantro-onion-lime relish.

Once again, it was 2008, and they didn’t have the option of taking out a business loan due to the recession. As a direct consequence, it was impossible for them to lease a space for a restaurant, so they turned to renting a catering truck instead.

And the rest was history.

Kogi Korean BBQ went on to be the most iconic food truck in LA, as it was the pioneer of the Korean Taco craze. It even won an award from American food magazine Bon Appetit in 2009, and Roy Choi also earned the title of “Best New Chef” from another magazine, Food & Wine, in 2010—an impressive feat as it was the first for any food truck.

SURPRISING FACT #3: Back in the day, food trucks were typically called “roach coaches”.

This was owing to the fact that food truck proprietors in the 1970s and 1980s employed poor sanitation procedures, which tarnished their reputation and gave them the moniker "roach coach". This shouldn’t be a reason for concern, though, because roach coaches are basically a thing of the past! There are two primary differences between the roach coaches of yesterday and the food trucks that you eat from today: sanitary practices and branding.

Back then, getting proper health and licensing requirements before running a food truck business was not quite common, so owners simply settled on poor sanitary practices. The result? Food trucks became a hotbed for cockroaches and other pests, as they were drawn to three things that were all present in the mobile eateries: fallen food, loads of grease, and dark corners. Add this to the fact that roach coaches were often situated in locations, such as construction sites and factories. On the other hand, opening a food truck now is pretty much comparable to opening a restaurant in terms of the numerous prerequisites and inspections required to guarantee that all health regulations are satisfied.

As for the branding, roach coaches were known to be plain and modest, with little to no special features. They're often white and grey in colour and lack any sort of distinctiveness in contrast to modern food trucks.  The latter has more efficient kitchen layouts, Instagram-worthy exteriors, a wide variety of menu items, and above all, hygienic spaces for staff to cook in and customers to eat on!

In spite of the notorious background, the best thing about roach coaches is the affordability and convenience that they offered to their devoted clientele, who were mostly blue-collar employees who worked in locations that didn't have many dining options.

Food trucks really are one of the best things to have come out of this generation, and with Forbes estimating the size of the food truck industry in America alone to increase by a whopping 20% in 2019, it appears that they are one of the most popular too.

So, if you haven’t tried eating from a food truck, then you most definitely are missing out on the fun! Make your first time one that you’d never forget by choosing to go for Shorty’s Food Truck. We offer an extensive range of burgers and fries, with newly-released items up on our menu (spoiler alert: we now offer kimchi burgers and okonomiyaki fries!). Check them out and give us a call at 0486 060 606 for all your catering needs!

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