I am happy to introduce Ms. L, a chef that is embarking on starting her own Korean Street Truck business in middle America. These are her true story. Names and locations have been omitted. You can leave Ms. L a message in the comment section of this post.
Chapter 1: Insomnia
So here I am, it is 3 in the morning and I’m spending another insomnia filled night on the Internet researching recipes. If trying to develop a menu was the only thing I have to deal with I would have been asleep hours ago.
Licenses, vendors, legal protections, insurance, marketing are just the beginning of opening your own business. Trying to find a place to start has made my head spin and I’ve had to keep reminding myself of one of my favorite sayings:
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
And in this case, preferably with some ssam and kimchi.
So how did I, a half Korean, half American get to the idea of opening up a Korean street food truck?
I didn’t grow up with Korean food. I was born and raised in a Midwest state where “immigrant population” meant people who’s ancestors came through Ellis island. I had Korean food a few times when my grandparents came to visit, all I really remember was it was spicy and kind of stinky. The closest Asian market was an hour drive away and everything smelled like fish- not exactly exciting to a 8 year old kid.
It’s not that I don’t love food, I do. I even wound up going to culinary school in a major city to pursue that love. And moving to a bigger city meant there were actually Korean restaurants and groceries. Heck, there was even this buffet that had kalbi on it!
After that it seemed like access to Korean ingredients got a lot easier.
One day about 4 years ago, I was plating a mini pajeon to go under a char-sui grilled pork chop, chili glazed eggplant finished with kimchi vinegarette, the umpteenth of the night and it occurred to me; that my town, Cowtown USA, was ready for Korean food.
The idea for the truck, well that popped up over the last couple of years as I watched guys like Kogi in L.A. and Korilla in New York make their mark. I knew what I took open a new restaurant. I knew the costs and knew I would never be able to afford that.
A truck, now those were far more affordable and far easier to run. No bathrooms to clean, tables to be bussed, or plates to wash. Food is only a part of what has to be done however.
At the end of the day, it is still a business and businesses require money. Getting money means proving your idea. To prove your idea to the banks and organizations like the SBA to get money is to write a business plan.
Good news is, I’ve actually written one.
Bad news is that was over ten years ago for school so it wasn’t for a Korean street food truck.
I think tonight is going to be another late night.
CHAPTER 2: Sexism in the kitchen
CHAPTER 3: Sanitation
CHAPTER 4: Rage
CHAPTER 5: Yipee! How to pick up a Guy with a Truck
CHAPTER 6: Korean Palate Training