Friday, May 30, 2014

Food Cart Project Part VIII: Social Media, Equipment Testing

Last weekend, I had a meeting with a chap called Steven Shomler, who recently wrote an excellent book about the Portland food cart scene. Steven also runs a website called Portland Food Cart Adventures. He has a very generous policy of allowing anybody seriously thinking about opening a food cart to bend his ear for a little while, provided they're willing to buy him a cup of coffee or a pint of beer. So, I was able to get a lot of questions answered and take in some great advice. One point he stressed was the importance of getting the brand and social media presence in place, earlier rather than later. I'd already done a fair amount of the branding (having a background in graphic design really helps here), but I hadn't intended on getting the concept out to the public so soon, so that's what I worked on through the rest of the weekend and since. I now have the Twitter:

And the Facebook:

I also set up an Instagram account, as well as the website, which I put together through Squarespace. I don't have a link for that yet, as I seem to be having some trouble getting the domain to populate over from GoDaddy, but here's a shot of the home page:

So, most of that is in place. And obviously, the concept is now public. Burmese food, doing Burmese food (or a somewhat Westernized, PDX take on it, at any rate; I'm not making any claims at authenticity). This weekend, I gave a couple pieces of equipment I'll be using a test run. Chicken, meet my new convection oven. You two are gonna have so much fun together...

Very, very important. I'm not sure what this thing could be immersed in, aside from a bathtub or  a swimming pool, but very, very important nevertheless:

Trust me, they said. Then they trussed me:

The chicken fits in the oven very nicely. Shouldn't be too much trouble cooking two at a time:

And, here's the finished product. I brined the chicken overnight, but apart from that I didn't really season it at all. Just dried it off a bit, and threw it right in. And it was fantastic.

I also gave the pressure cooker its inaugural run. Stock takes about a quarter of the time in one of these.

I tossed in the bones from just the one chicken, six quarts of water, and some aromatic vegetables and herbs (in this case, I want a Southeast Asian flavor profile, so I went with a couple of shallots, along with some lemongrass, green onion, and parsley that I'd put in the freezer not long ago. If you make stock, or plan on starting, always remember to save those veggie scraps and put 'em in the freezer):

Of course, you'll want to strain that and get it into an ice bath once it's done:

The stock turned out really well. I was a little concerned that one chicken's worth of bones wouldn't be enough, but the nice thing about the pressure cooker is that it really extracts the flavor and collagen from the bones. The yield ended up being just a little over five and a half quarts. Not bad. Stay tuned!


Jocelyn:McAuliflower said...

this looks great! I went to the food cart how-to event held here last winter. Lots of great take away advice- keep food prep quick, keep a simple menu, have pictures of the menu items on the cart... and you're getting the last/first big piece of advice: build your social presence. Build it before you launch, build it during, and always keep your twitter community updated and feeling rewarded with knowledge.

Tommy Schopp said...

Thanks Jocelyn! Somehow I missed the boat on the food cart how-to, but I'm getting a lot of good advice through other avenues. It was definitely a stroke of luck to run across Steven's book, and then Steven himself. Quick prep and simple menu are things I'm probably going to want to work on. I may have to take an item or two off the menu as it currently stands, until I have the rhythm of the operation down... This will keep me busy, for sure!