Ten years ago they barely existed. Now, food trucks are an enormous industry bringing in $2.7 billion in sales, according to the “Food Truck Nation” an annual study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. In honor of the report, and the brave and bold purveyors of flavor bringing their tasty food to the streets every day, we’ll be highlighting five innovative, cool and above all delicious Food Trucks across the country, living their entrepreneurial dreams.
First up, Portland’s Pastrami Zombie, run by veteran chef Melissa McMillan. Portland happens to have the friendliest Food Truck environment in the U.S., according to the report. And this former breakout contestant on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” is making the most of it, becoming a local fixture and a rare treat in the Pacific Northwest. Take a look:
Owner: Melissa McMillan
Location: 4233 North Mississippi Ave. Portland, OR
How did you come up with the name of your food truck?
My little brother Joey named it. After spending time at my restaurant in Ashland, he thought I made Zombies out of customers with my pastrami.
What does your average day look like?
Wake up at 7:30AM, take a shower, walk my dog. Then cruise down to the food truck…get that baby unlocked and fired up! Once everything is running and prepped for service, bust open that window and start cooking!
What inspired you to get in the food truck business?
My restaurant in southern Oregon was so popular and people loved the food so much, I thought it was time to expand. Going to a bigger city, I thought the safest and most financially responsibly route was a food truck. The food truck gave me the opportunity to move around, so I could get more exposure in a short amount of time.
How did you finance your start?
I shared a bottle of tequila with my buddy, who has been a patron at my restaurant for many years…the next day I got the dough.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you or your business in your time in the Food Truck Business?
I’ve never seen so much press in such a short amount of time. My water heater froze two times in my first winter on the food truck. Something you don’t think of in a food truck until it happens to you. Needless to say, I had to replace two water heaters within two weeks.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
Going from a kitchen to a food truck. Imagine being in a 4X6 box on wheels for 8 hours a day. Going from the luxury of a commercial kitchen to a food truck is not something that I thought about until I was in it. Refrigeration, storage, workspace and doing everything on a small scale takes some planning and dedication.
What gets you up in the morning?
My dog licking my face. Just joking! Seeing the smiles on my customers’ faces after they take a bite. Being able to give my local farmer a check for their produce. Helping my coworkers grow and follow their dreams. Living my dream of someday selling enough sammiches so that I can be a full-time volunteer baseball coach.
What’s your number one piece of advice for aspiring Food Truck owners?
Pick one thing and do it great! Don’t do seven things well.