Q: In your own words, how would you explain a food truck to someone who has never experienced this style of dining before?
A: The modern day food truck is truly a mobile restaurant, not just fair food or carnival food or concession stand food anymore; people are serving full blown means like you would serve in a sit down restaurant, just a little more casual and outdoorsy than the typical restaurant.
Q: What is the meaning of "Affine," the name of your food truck?
A: It’s actually the term used to describe cheese that has been aged to proper maturity. We used this term because a lot of the food that we prepare requires a lot of time as an ingredient - time to cure something, time to smoke it, time to dry age.
We make our own charcuterie in house which is like salami or prosciutto that takes literally months of time sitting, dry aging to develop the flavor so for us it’s a reminder that good food takes time to make. That’s just the way it works. It doesn’t take time to serve it to you, but on the back end, for us, we like to remind people that we take the utmost care & time to prepare it for you.
Q: What is your professional experience before beginning Affine?
A: My first business partner and I, and also our third partner now, we all met working at Joseph Decuis in Roanoke. We all worked there for different periods of time, but each for quite some time. We met up there, it’s a great restaurant, a great place to learn, but we just kinda' wanted to get out on our own. So our experience was fine dining, a background in local sourcing, preparing everything in house, everything from scratch. That’s our background. Formal training? I don’t have much formal training, I’ve learned most everything from working in different scratch kitchens and some not scratch kitchens.
Q: Why did you choose the mobility of a food truck rather than establishing a brick & mortar restaurant?
A: For our experience, it all came down to starting a food truck is a lot cheaper than opening a full blown brick and mortar restaurant. A lot less debt to get ourselves in, and to get ourselves out of and we figured it would be a great stepping stone. We figured we would have this be our stepping out point, and eventually grow into a restaurant - which we’re actually planning on doing before the end of this year. A food truck was a great way to get out on our own, build a customer base, get our food out there, people trying it people talking about it, giving us feedback on it, making sure what we’re doing makes sense, and doing it in a way that’s not as risky financially.
Q: I believe we tend to think of food trucks as a larger city phenomenon in the last few years, are you seeing the trend coming to smaller communities? If yes, have the locals been receptive?
A: I can only speak about Fort Wayne, and of course every city is very different, but I would say that the people of Fort Wayne have been incredibly receptive, much more than I ever expected when I first opened. People have really gotten on to it, we have more and more trucks joining our group and the city every year. Its not slowed down, its actually speeding up the number of people that we are serving, and the number of people that want more food trucks and more variety.
There’s a couple of us that travel out of Fort Wayne for specific events or small city festivals. We have people asking us to come out to events in Auburn; we’ve done events in Decatur and Wabash. Definitely branching out into smaller markets, and the people there really seem to like us.
Q: How are the challenges of a food truck different than the challenges of a traditional sit-down restaurant?
A: First, the weather plays a much larger role in your success. With a food truck, you live and die by the rain clouds, literally. Secondly I would say just the logistics of having a kitchen inside a mobile vehicle. Kitchen equipment isn’t really designed to be jostled around and bounced around all the time. You have fryer oil in a hot fryer, not really designed to be moving around or shook up. You have to be careful about that. On top of all the kitchen equipment that can break down, a lot of us have older trucks that also break down. It seems like there’s always something that needs to be fixed, more so than a restaurant. You can have all your kitchen equipment working great, but if you can’t get to where you need to go it doesn’t matter.
A: Our fries are very popular. We started those years ago and now if we don’t bring them to an event people get upset. We serve a Vietnamese style banh mi, so it’s like an Asian fair French baguette leftover from the French occupation of Vietnam in the years following the Vietnam conflict. It’s cakey, salty, crispy crunchy, sweet, a little bit of spice in there, on a French style baguette. We do several variations of that sandwich, that’s probably our most popular menu sandwich we do.
Q: What should Van Wertians & visitors expect on July 11, for our first “Eats on the Street” event?
A: Come with an open mind, be adventurous and be willing to try something new. A lot of the trucks will serve something they aren’t used to, something they haven’t seen. We are blessed in our Food Truck Association, for the fact we have a group of very talented chefs all working out of trucks, bringing great food day in and day out. Nobody is just buying stuff from a big box store, reheating it to serve to you. Everyone is taking great care to make creations all on their own and selling it. Trust the process and trust the trucks because the food we are making is great! You will be surprised how delicious food from a truck can be!