What’s new in food: Food Truck Boot Camp rolls into Cherokee

READY TO FRY: Anthony and Nikki Crisp are looking forward to sharing their frybread with other participants of the Food Truck Boot Camp in Cherokee Monday-Thursday, Nov. 7-10. Photo courtesy of Nikki's Frybread and Grill

Have a brilliant idea for a food truck but no idea how to turn it into reality? The Food Truck Boot Camp, taking place Monday-Thursday, Nov. 7-10, in Cherokee, might be your launch pad.

“The people who will be served by this are the dreamers with an idea who need help in learning how to build a food truck business, as well as established people who want to refine and grow their business,” says Laura Lauffer, project director of EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems. EMFS is a multiyear project focused on expanding opportunities and capacity to food and farm businesses across the southwestern region of the state.

In addition to working with area organizations and institutions, the gathering will feature the Street Food Institute, a New Mexico-based nonprofit that works with culinary leaders and entrepreneurs to promote business development and growth. Alongside local industry-related members and government officials, the Street Food Institute will share its expertise in multiple sessions and one-on-one coaching.

Food Truck Boot Camp’s first day will cover topics including getting started, writing a business plan, bookkeeping and basic regulations for food trucks. On subsequent days, attendees can learn about financing, operational safety, pricing, efficient truck design, media and marketing, creating a menu and controlling food waste.

“We’re excited to have a TikTok influencer from the [Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians], Taylor Wachacha, who will do some sample TikToks with truck owners and teach them how to make their own,” Lauffer adds.

Attendees will also tour existing food trucks and have access to a large commercial kitchen in the Ginger Lynn Welch building, adjacent to the EBCI Commerce Department building where sessions take place. Meals will be provided by local food trucks and caterers.

Two of the most visible operating trucks in the Cherokee area are Nikki’s Frybread and Grill owned by Nikki and Anthony Crisp and Sugar’s Place owned by mother-and-daughter team Sugar and Tasha Martinez. Both businesses will be providing food and participating in the conference. The latter was also a recipient of a grant from EMFS; the money helped the food truck purchase a new wrap.

Cindy Mathews, a retired teacher, is among those participating in the boot camp. She is currently in the process of opening a new ice cream truck. Like Sugar’s Place, Mathews is also a recipient of a recent grant from EMFS to help her get her business up and running. “I couldn’t have gotten started without EmPOWER and Laura,” she says. “And I’m really excited about going to the boot camp. I have a lot to learn, but you’re never too old.”

The event takes place at 876 Acquoni Road, Cherokee. Tickets are $50. For more information, including a complete schedule and tickets, visit avl.mx/c1t.

Come to mama’s

When John Atwater‘s quest to take over the now-defunct Zia Taqueria building in West Asheville didn’t pan out, the local restaurateur turned his focus to the Depot Street parking space that Zia Taqueria’s former food truck previously occupied in the River Arts District.

“We had kept in touch with the Zia food truck guys who have a big following of regulars,” says Atwater, who owns Mamacita’s and Taco Temple. “We thought we could team up and do some of their popular items, add some specials we had done at Mamacita’s and some new things.”

Mamacita’s Street Food, now open outside the Old London Road soccer pub, is just that: a mashup of Zia Taqueria and Mamacita menus, along with new dishes.

Highlights include Mexican-style hot dogs, which are near and dear to Atwater, who spends a lot of leisure time fishing in Mexico. “They’re basically built like a taco, with sliced avocado, pico de gallo and maybe some hot sauce, but it’s a Snap-o-Razzo all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and on a bun, not a tortilla.”

Another fusion is the taco Arabe, a Lebanese interpretation of the Mexican staple; the dish originated in Puebla, which is home to a large Lebanese population. “Our head chef at Mamacita, Francisco Romero, is from Puebla, and he is very familiar with the dish,” Atwater explains. “It’s thinly sliced pork seasoned with oregano and thyme, grilled and served with caramelized onions and a Coca-Cola chipotle salsa Francisco makes, on a pita.”

Meanwhile, the food truck’s tachos combine nachos and tater tots. And esquites, a popular snack in Mexico, are also available. Atwater describes the latter as “elote street corn in a cup, so you don’t need to carry dental floss with you.”

Because Old London is a sports bar, Mamacita’s Street Food has kept Zia Taqueria’s wings, which use a dry rub recipe from Sam Nicholson, who is heading the food truck. Breakfast burritos, another neighborhood favorite, remain on the menu as well.

Mamacita’s Street Food operates 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at 270 Depot St. 

Pop-up culture

Diners curious about Oaxacan cuisine — originating in Oaxaca, Mexico — are often stymied by the proper pronunciation. It’s Wa-HA-ca. Native Oaxacan (Wa-ha-can) and Asheville resident and chef Luis Martinez is reprising his popular pop-ups, hosting two this month. On Thursday, Oct. 13, at 6:30 p.m., he will serve a four-course Oaxacarolina dinner at Botanist & Barrel. A standout dish promises to be the pork shank with sweet potato mole, white beans and purslane salad. Tickets for the dinner are $110 per person; optional cider pairings are available for an additional $30.
Botanist & Barrel is at 32 Broadway, Suite 110. For more information, visit avl.mx/c1o .

On Sunday, Oct. 16, at 10:30 a.m. Martinez partners with Cooperative Coffee Roasters for a four-course Tequio brunch. Trade in those tired waffles and take a walk on the wild side. Highlights include grilled figs with mizuna and mussels escabeche with fermented carrot. Oaxacan coffee will also be included in the mix, with optional alcoholic beverage pairings selected by Eli Masem, owner of Cooperative Coffee Roasters.

Cooperative Coffee Roasters is at 210 Haywood Road. Tickets are $75 per person and should be reserved by email to eli@cooperativecoffeeroasters.com

Little (more) Chango

Since opening last November, diners have worn a path to the doors of Little Chango Hispanic Craft Kitchen in South Slope for its Caribbean-inspired menu of arepas, yuca fries, tostones, ropa vieja and pork shoulder. Like many downtown restaurants dependent on tourist traffic, owners Luis Betances, Iris Rodriguez and Jose Busto switched to shorter winter hours in January, closing at 5 p.m. on weekdays.

By spring, staffing issues forced the eatery to continue with its reduced hours. “We didn’t want to compromise service or food, so we had to keep that schedule,” Betances explains.

But now, thanks to a larger staff, Little Chango will be open Tuesday through Sunday at 11:30 a.m., closing Tuesday through Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.

And the restaurant has added another lure to the bright sunny yellow building — tres leches cake. “It started as a special and it’s so popular we added it to the daily menu,” Betances says. “It’s made with gluten-free flour and served with rosewater orange whip and pistachio crunch. People love it as much as the flan.”

Little Chango is at 134 Coxe Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/c16.

Fermentation fever

The art and science of fermentation are having their moment, and White Labs Brewing Co. is here for it. On Thursday, Oct. 13, 6-7:30 p.m., the brewery will present White Labs Fermented Pairings + Tasteful Fermentation Class. White Labs Brewing Co.’s research chef, Bert Sheffield, and head of education, Erik Fowler, will conduct a  show-and-tell while participants taste and consider how fermentation adds flavor, complexity and preservation to unique dishes, as well as compare fermented and nonfermented dishes paired with yeast-driven beer styles.

White Labs Brewing Co. is at 172 S. Charlotte. Tickets are $55 per person and include three courses of proteins, vegetables and dessert plus beers. For more information, visit avl.mx/c1p.

Shuck it off

“Beer grown here” is Sideways Farm and Brewery’s tagline. On Thursday, Oct.13, it’s teaming up with Feta Flav and adding buckets of oysters, shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, two fall desserts (by Diggity Doughnuts) and a bottle of beer or jun to the brewery’s bounty. The collaborative oyster roast begins at 7 p.m.

 Tickets are $150 for two people to share. Sideways Farm is at 62 Eade Road, Etowah. For more information, visit avl.mx/c1q.  


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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