By Jonathan Baca, Copy Editor | Photo by Jonathan Baca
Some Culinary Arts students are getting out of the classroom and into the new food truck, serving up fresh homemade soups and sandwiches to Main Campus students and beyond.
The Street Food Institute Food Truck is the product of a new partnership that provides students with credits toward their degrees, along with some real world experience in the challenges of running a restaurant on wheels.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the food truck will be parked on Main campus, in the parking lot just south of Smith Brasher Hall, and students are already enjoying the new dining option.
All CNM students receive a 25 percent discount, and just have to show their student ID’s.
Computer Informations Technology major, James Brice said “The Cubano sandwich is great; I’ve already had it twice. It’s just nice to have another thing to eat besides the cafeteria food.”
David Sellers, who is an Executive Chef and Program Director for the Street Food Institute, a part of the Simon Charitable Foundation, said his goal is to train young chefs to be future entrepreneurs and small business owners, also to have students help boost the local economy.
“I wanted it to be really simple. Great quality food but in simple sandwich form using really good ingredients, and we’ve had great reviews so far,” Sellers said.
The food truck itself is the hands-on portion of a new Culinary Arts class, Mobile Food Operations, where students learn the basics of running a food truck, including the creation of a menu, food costs, preparation and service, as well as setting up and tearing down the truck, Sellers said.
The new class is a pilot course being offered for three semesters, with the ultimate goal of creating a three-term food truck certification program, Sellers said.
Culinary Arts major, Jake Morgan said he was excited to be one of the first eight students to take the new course.
“I was really interested in it because I want to run a food truck. You don’t have as much overhead or costs at the beginning. I mean you are only paying for a truck, not a brick and mortar building,” Morgan said.
Morgan said that he would enjoy creating a unique concept for the truck, because one of the greatest advantages of having a food truck is the ease that one can change the menu and style of the cuisine, due to the low overhead and versatility of a mobile restaurant.
Another advantage that working in a food truck offers over a traditional kitchen job in a restaurant is the personal, face-to-face interactions that they get to have with their customers, Morgan said.
“You get to relate with people immediately. You can usually tell right away if someone is disappointed with what they got or not,” Morgan said.
The initial menu was designed by Sellers, and includes turkey, barbeque pork, grilled cheese and Cuban sandwiches, as well as several soups and side dishes, which are all made from scratch, and with a student discount makes these dishes a steal, Sellers said.
“It is already reasonably priced, so a 25 percent discount is quite cheap actually, especially for the quality,” Sellers said.
Sellers said he strives to use as many local ingredients as possible, including produce from Green Tractor and Romero Farms, and that he is working on creating a long-term partnership with Agricultura, a local student-run farming project.
Culinary Arts major, Sara Green does not work in the truck, but takes the partner class, where she helps prep food for the day.
Green said she thinks the thing that makes the food truck a better alternative for students is the fresher, homemade ingredients that students get to serve there.
“I think the truck is a good option for students to go to. I know for most students, they don’t like to necessarily eat the other food that is offered on campus, and at the truck we make most of the stuff basically from scratch,” Green said.
Much of the menu is handmade and fresh, including the salads, the sandwich spreads, lemonade, and their unique spiced parsnip potato chips, she said.
The food truck students even make their own pickles and spice, and roast the turkey that they use on sandwiches, which all contributes to a more flavorful, enjoyable eating experience, she said.
“I think it’s the food that makes it. Once people try it and like the food, they are going to come back,” Green said.
Culinary Arts major, Erik Newlander who has worked as a sushi chef, said he signed up for the class because he has dreams of someday starting a food truck that sells sushi.
Newlander said that the team has gotten a lot of positive feedback, and that the truck has had a very solid opening with few problems.
“The menu is going pretty good, people really seem to like everything on there,” Newlander said.
While the first menu concept was created by Sellers, he said that once the class is out of the pilot phase, the plan is for students to help create an entire concept from the ground up, creating a menu, sourcing and buying ingredients, and managing the operation of the truck themselves.
“That’s when you throw the ball into their court and see what they can come up with. It’s a great sort of multi-faceted program,” Sellers said.
Sellers said he is excited about the future potential for the Street Food Institute, as food trucks are becoming more popular in Albuquerque.
“I think right now we’re kind of hitting it at the perfect timing. The scene is just really starting here, so it’s a great opportunity for people to start something,” he said.