A taste of the food truck community in Utah Valley

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Utah Valley Magazine: Why did you open a food truck?

Brandon Clark: I studied in California at the Culinary Institute of America. I was working in Utah as an executive pastry chef, opening up restaurants. I wanted to be creative again and do my own thing.

UV: Is it claustrophobic working inside a truck?

Brandon: It takes a lot of skill. In the winter, the truck is like an icebox, and in the summer, it’s like an oven. We’ve created a system where you basically do one thing throughout the shift. If you’re on the grill, you’re on the grill and you don’t move. It’s a “bump and slide” system. If someone needs anything over there, it’s going to push the other person off. We don’t cross paths. It’s very much a chaotic dance.

UV: What are pros and cons of a restaurant on wheels?

Brandon: We get to serve a lot more people than if we were stationary. If we go to a business complex for lunch, 200 employees will come down, eat for two hours and be done. We can project our sales, which is an advantage. The disadvantage is that it’s hit-or-miss whether that truck is going to start. I’ve rebuilt the engine and transmission. I replaced the radiator. I’ve put new tires on it. Today it broke down and we had to replace some part I didn’t even know existed.

UV: How often do things not go according to plan?

Brandon: Often. One time I catered a wedding and had a sheet pan full of food in the back and forgot to latch the fridge. When I pulled around to get on the freeway, the fridge door flew open and food was all over the ground. Those are mistakes you never make again.

UV: What advice would you give yourself about shifting your business into gear?

Brandon: My No. 1 piece of advice — and this goes for life too — is to stay present. We wanted to get into a restaurant so bad. Month after month, it was, “How are we going to get into a restaurant?” instead of embracing the food truck. I tell my employees now — four years later — to remember that we may be serving 200 people, but for each person, that’s their one meal. Focus and stay present.

Hit the Pavement
Brandon Clark envisioned Kitchen Eighty-Eight as a fast-casual restaurant and saw a food truck as the vehicle to get there. To build a strong future customer base in Utah County, he kept their wheels between Draper and Provo. This summer Kitchen Eighty-Eight will open up a traditional restaurant location on 500 South in American Fork.

 

Utah Valley Magazine: Why was opening a food truck a good fit for you?

Clark Kesler: Food trucks offer more flexibility than a traditional restaurant, as we basically can come to our customers whether they live in Ogden, Park City or Spanish Fork.

UV: Why did you choose to serve pizza?

Clark: I could eat pizza every day for the rest of my life. In the development of my recipe, I made pizza for my family for 90 straight days while keeping a spreadsheet and tracking every detail and scoring every recipe change. I could’ve kept eating pizza after the 90 days, but my family was ready for a change.

UV: Is it claustrophobic working inside a truck?

Clark: Our trucks are very transparent with a solid wall of glass. By design I wanted it to be an open book, so the customers can see exactly what’s going on. Some catering jobs take us into people’s backyards, Sundance or a wedding reception venue, and because we see through the glass we really feel like we are part of it.

UV: What are pros and cons of a restaurant on wheels?

Clark: We cater nearly 250 weddings a year and our little mobile pizzeria can make the freshest pizzas right on-site, and they can be eaten while the pizzas are still steaming — having never seen the inside of a pizza box. On the other hand, managing the schedule for a food truck can be challenging. Finding events and locations to fill the calendar, allowing time for maintenance and repairs, and making sure all drivers are properly trained are all challenges we have had to adapt to.

UV: How often do things not go according to plan?

Clark: Often. One memorable day was when we were catering a wrap party for a popular local TV show. As we were leaving from our prep kitchen, our truck wouldn’t start. So we made the pizzas in our kitchen parking lot and boxed them up and drove them in batches to the catering job.

UV: Has your excitement changed since you started the food truck?

Clark: Every day I still wake up excited to start and amazed at what we have accomplished in the past five years.

Turning Point
The word “fiore” comes from the Italian word for “flower” and verb “to blossom” — and a San Francisco cheese maker where Clark Kesler first heard it. He borrowed the word to name the shipping-container-turned-food-truck to turn profits on his pizza obsession.
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