30 Days of Food Inspiration – Day 19

Day 19: Chef Shack.

We were privileged to spend the evening on an exclusive blogger tour of the kitchens of food truck pioneers Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson, co-owners of the Chef Shack. We checked out their stainless steel palace in southwest Minneapolis, we got a wink and a nod that you should keep your ears open for exciting news in Chef Shack’s future, we hung out among their fleet of trucks (they have three) and we enjoyed dinner and dessert.

While Carrie gave us the tour, Lisa cooked up some pulled pork tacos (tender with a nice, subtle char on the tortillas and a fantastic crunchy cabbage slaw) and spicy vegetable curry (subtle heat on the back-end, not blow your tastebuds spicy — my kind of hot). SO good. To balance the savory, we also got a sweet chocolate mousse over moist chocolate cake. Rich and cooling on a hot summer evening.

Between bites and sips of Surly and Crispin cider, we peppered Carrie and Lisa with questions and they shared their cooking, baking, food truck and business wisdom.

Chef Shack Tips for Being a Great Food Truck Customer

* Keep an open mind and try new things. Indian-spiced mini donuts and beef tongue tacos might sound scary, but if you take a taste you might find you enjoy the tender braised beef and the fried dough redolent with exotic “pie spices.”

* If something isn’t working, tell the chef(s)/owner(s) — preferably not over social media. If you had a dish that didn’t have the right taste, texture or temperature, mention it right there and then (politely and constructively, of course). If you’re not comfortable talking about it face to face, send a private email and give the chef/owner a chance to respond and resolve the issue and maybe even change the menu! This is especially important with new food trucks who may be trying things out and still learning.

* If you’ve got criticism, be specific so the chef(s)/owner(s) know how to make things better. “This sandwich sucks,” is not particularly helpful. “I think I’d enjoy this sandwich more if it were crispier and not so spicy,” gives people something to work with and improve.

Food Blogger Tips for Being an Awesome Food Truck

* Offering free samples helps people understand your food/culinary perspective and is an accessible “foot in the door” to get people to try (and hopefully buy) your food. However, if you’re going to offer samples of hot food, don’t let the samples get cold (and vice versa for cold food served too warm).

* If you’re new to the scene, talk to veterans like the Chef Shack crew.  The food truck community is great and kind and they all seem to help each other. They can help you ease into a great start with your food truck instead of going it alone and potentially making lots of rookie mistakes that could kill future business.

* Be unique. Offer food we can’t get anywhere else and we’ll keep coming back for more.

* Good customer service goes a long way. Interacting with your customers shows us that you care and making a personal connection often means earning a lifelong customer.

A BIG giant thank you to Carrie and Lisa at Chef Shack for such a wonderful evening and tremendous props to the tireless Matt from Thyme In Our Kitchen for organizing the event. Remember to follow Chef Shack on Twitter for updates on their locations and the latest news — you don’t want to miss what these dedicated and talented women have planned for the future!!

Chef Shack’s Carrie Summer waxing poetic about her “retirement truck.”

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