The Gathering Spot closed in Feb. 2012.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background. Who are you?
My name is Luis Valdovinos and I am the owner along with my partner and girlfriend Alysia Camara of The Gathering Spot Bistrotruck. I was practically born in a restaurant. My father is a Cordon Bleu chef of 37 years and counting and taught me just about everything I know. I am a native of San Diego, born and raised.
2. When did your truck open for business?
The Gathering Spot Bistrotruck or TGS Bistrotruck officially opened for business on April 15th at the 57 Degrees monthly food truck gathering. It was a crazy night to choose to launch! We only had one trial run before that night. The night of our launch our fryer went out. We were the only truck with truffle fries and they were a hot item. Unfortunately we had to take them off our menu within the first 45 minutes. But overall, what a great way to get our feet wet.
3. Why did you start a food truck?
I have always been passionate about food growing up in a restaurant and trying various cuisines from all over the world. Specifically street food and its variety, creativity and rich flavors have inspired the menu that we serve on our truck. I was initially looking at opening a restaurant when I saw a food truck in LA and thought it would be a great way for me to get started in the business. I was not aware about the food truck movement or any of the shows about them on TV until after I began my market research and starting putting together our business plan. We love street food and what it means to the community. It brings you out to the streets and opens up your palette to great culinary experiences.
4. How would you describe the food you serve?
TGS Bistrotruck serves an assortment of gourmet street food….or how Alysia likes to call it,” souped-up street food.”
5. How many people work inside the truck at one time? What kind of equipment do you have in there?
It is dependent upon the event or outing but on our busiest day we have four people working the truck. Alysia works the register. Our Chef de Partie, Kristina works the grill, we have a line cook that works the cold line, and I expedite the orders and run the fryer.
As far as equipment goes, we have a fryer, a griddle, a steamer and a cold prep line station.
6. What’s your favorite thing about running the truck and what is your biggest challenge?
My favorite part about running the truck is to see the great reaction people have when they try our food. I love interacting with people and working with my life partner, Alysia. Our greatest challenge is bringing in the business. We both currently have day jobs and only work special events, catering and weekends. Now we are expanding to lunches soon and will grow the business in that area. Secondly, is prep. There is only so much you can get done on a food truck. It is a tight space and requires a lot of discipline and organization to make it all happen. Thankfully we are very organized and are always looking for better ways to get things done.
7. What is something about running the truck that is different than you expected it would be?
There is never enough time in the day to do it all. There are certain areas of the business that we’d like to give more time to, but the food and our customers always comes first.
8. What would you say is your most popular menu item?
Ohhhh, that is a tough one because it depends on where we go and who we are feeding. Every item was created to stand in its own category. I know that if we only served one of our items at any given time it would be an absolute hit! With that said our most popular item at this point is the Trifecta Grilled Cheese. It is a grilled cheese sandwich served on levain loaf bread, with housemade dill aioli, three cheeses (pepper jack, smoked gouda, and cheddar) melted to perfection, and served with a shot of gazpacho.
9. What is something “off the wall” that you would love to put on your menu but aren’t sure people would go for?
We recently went to Montreal and discover Poutine. Its base is fries, gravy and cheese and made in different variations. It’s a hit over there and its street food at its finest. We plan on having a Poutine special rolling out here shortly.
I think people get really excited and find it very fascinating to eat such amazing food served off a truck. It’s a different experience than your ordinary food truck. There is a lot of creativity that goes behind the menu on a gourmet food truck. For us, “It’s All About the Food!” It’s taking something common and ordinary, like hot dogs, sliders and grilled cheese and giving it a culinary makeover that opens up your palette to flavors never before experienced on these types of foods. That’s why people get excited about the food and following gourmet food trucks. We are excited to be a part of this movement that is new and growing here in San Diego.
11. What advice would you give to someone trying to start their own mobile food business?
Do your research and visualize the work that would go into your day to day life of owning a food truck. And you really have to love this business and passionate about your food.
12. Running a truck seems like a ton of work. How many hours of prep and clean-up do you do per day?
Depends on the event and with our day jobs it’s quite challenging. For a 2 hour event we worked approximately 8 hours before and after. This includes anything from shopping to prep time, to filling the truck with gas and propane.
13. What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten had from any food truck/cart? Which truck was it and where?
Mexican street tacos…in Mexico. I used to live in Rosarito and there was a cart named Tacos El Paisa. He served simple tacos such as carne asada, al pastor, etc. You could top the tacos with fresh pinto beans cooked in a clay pot. It was consistent, delicious and I could taste the passion behind his food.