1) Please state your name, name your food truck, the type of food you serve, and how long have your food truck been in operation?
David Stankunas, Captain Commander of Nom Nom Truck. We serve Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) and Vietnamese-inspired tacos…Vietnamese fusion tacos I guess. We’ve been in operation for roughly 5 weeks.
2) When and how did you come up with the idea of serving food in a truck and how did you decide on your menu?
My partners and I first conceived the idea for a banh mi truck back in March. It took a little while to get going, but once June/July hit, we really started moving forward quickly for our late August launch.
The menu is mainly comprised of the most popular traditional banh mi sandwiches. We tried to tailor it for “mass appeal”. We may come out with more “adventurous” menu items in the future though. The taco part of our menu was added because…well…we’re in LA, and we eat lots of tacos from trucks in LA.
3) How has LA influenced you and your food truck and do you think it’ll be the same, for you, if you were in a different part of the country?
As stated above, we may not have offered tacos if we weren’t in LA. They turned out great though, so I’m pretty happy we have them. LA is actually a pretty great place for our business, since we have a large Asian population, a limited supply of banh mi options in most parts of LA outside of a 20 mile drive (virtually none), and lots of high population pockets that are spread out enough to allow a lot of trucks to operate without stealing business.
4) Speaking of, a different part of the country, another crazy food truck spot currently is NYC. There seems to be a lot of fighting going on between the well established food trucks/carts and the newcomers. And recently The Dessert Truck, a well-loved truck, was not able to renew their permit from NYC and everyone has begun to talk about the backlash. Being in LA have you experienced any of these sort of old food trucks that have been around for 10 years or more getting into fights with the newcomers? And what about the City of LA? Has anyone given you a hard time?
We’re just getting started, so we’ve been fortunate not to run into any problems with the city of LA. However, there have been some issues regarding a particular part of Los Angeles that has become a very popular spot for a lot of these new food trucks. In fact, there was a recent story about it in the LABJ.
As for fighting going on between other food trucks, we haven’t encountered any of that yet. We don’t typically hit up any of the locations that established taco trucks frequent, so it hasn’t been an issue. Other “alternative” food trucks like Kogi, Marked5, Green Truck, Dosa Truck, BarbiesQ, Fish Lips, Bool, etc…are all relatively new and we’re very friendly with each other. In fact, I talk to almost all the other trucks out there and share advice, experiences, good locations, etc… It’s a very communal culture among us newbies.
4a) Any comments on the recent trouble from the restaurants and the police on Wilshire Blvd?
Nah…no comment really. We’ve stayed away from the 5700 block and haven’t had a problem. It’ll get figured out at some point. LA is plenty big.
5) I have noticed a lot of the food trucks are excited to see one another and to try each other’s food. Do you think that is important for this new wave of trucks? To bond together?
Yep…it’s been a great experience interacting with other trucks. Unlike New York, we’re very spread out here in LA, and everyone drives around here. There are so many locations that we’ve been invited to hit up that we just don’t have time for! Because of that, we don’t have to be as competitive with each other. In fact, sometimes we can schedule a similar location and work together, generating a larger crowd that many not have shown up for just one truck. As much as we can proliferate the idea of food trucks being a viable alternative to eating out at a restaurant, the better it will be for all of us.
6) How do you think this new wave of food trucks is changing the food scene in LA?
I think it remains to be seen. Right now we’re still in the infancy of this new wave of mobile food. The question is, will it just be a fad, or will it become a viable food option? We’re all hoping for the latter, of course. I think the new wave is definitely making things more interesting though. We’re seeing a lot of very specialized trucks (Cookie truck, grilled cheese truck, shaved ice truck, etc…) that you would rarely get to see in a traditional restaurant setting. Restaurants typically will offer a wide range of menu items. Trucks just aren’t capable of doing that, so we specialize.
7) 2009 is definitely the food truck year, why do you think that is?
I think Kogi really set things off with their success. Now a lot of trucks are jumping on the bandwagon. We’re completely guilty of that ourselves…Kogi was the main inspiration behind starting Nom Nom Truck. I think a lot of people are entrepreneurial at heart, so the idea of starting their own business selling something they love (a particular type of food) is very appealing. Now that the blueprint has been laid by Kogi, there have been a lot of entrepreneurs looking to emulate that success.
8) Do you see the food truck trend slowing down at all? What do you think will happen in 2010?
As long as Los Angeles and the people continue to support food trucks, I think we’ll continue to see trucks launch. Barring some legislation that really cracks down on food trucks, I think we’ll be in good shape to grow into 2010 and beyond.
9) Why do you think people are so fascinated with food trucks?
It’s just fun! Who wouldn’t want to go check out a banh mi truck or a grilled cheese truck?
I think the fact that a lot of the new food trucks hit up corporate buildings during lunchtime also contributes to the fascination. People who’ve worked in the same building for 5 or 10 years get tired of the food options immediately available to them. It’s a great breath of fresh air to have a food truck drive right up to your building and bring something new and delicious!
10) Let’s say there’s someone out there that has never been to a food truck and has never heard of you before. Which 1 item will you offer him/her to try off of your menu?
Grilled Pork banh mi and Vietnamese coffee.
– Thank you David, Captain Commander of Nom Nom Truck, for taking the time to answer the questions. I believe that the whole food truck movement will slow down in 2010 but not dead. Like all things, if you put out great products people will come. And it’s great to see all the food trucks getting along and create such a big buzz around them.
– Nom Nom Truck on Twitter