The food truck phenomenon has been raging for a few years. The outlaw fringe element seems to excite the imagination. In some parts of the city, food truck roundups bring communities together. Bal Harbour, Surfside, and North Miami Beach have embraced the idea by hosting parties at Haulover Park every Tuesday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. at the kite-flying area at 10800 Collins Ave. There's a DJ, plenty of dancing, volleyball nets, and huge blow-up slides. It's BYOB because there are no liquor vendors.
In the spirit of the recent movie Chef, I took a look at this phenomenon from inside the food truck. This is the story of Bite Gastrotruck. Chef/owner Ron Kerr was cooking for a private client in the Hamptons, so he counted on his kitchen staff to run the show. Here's a behind-the-curtain point of view.
Noon - I stop by the bakery Croissantilicious in Pompano Beach for buns, which are made fresh. They are challah -- soft, buttery, and golden brown.
1 p.m. - I stop by the butcher to pick up freshly ground beef for burgers.
1:30 p.m. - Prepping begins and the truck is stocked. I'm assuming it will be very busy tonight because 150 pounds of potatoes for fries are loaded. There's chipotle aioli and truffle aioli, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and red onions. The caramelized onions are cooked. In all, there are 60 pounds of beef, ten dozen freshly baked challah buns, and coolers with all beverages stocked. The ice chests are full of nine gallons of Blue Bell Vanilla, fresh strawberries, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and other shake accoutrements. Approximating the amount of supplies to bring is necessary -- too little and service stops early, making it a busted night; too much and money is wasted on supplies gone bad.
3:30 p.m. - Propane tanks for cooking are topped off and it's off to the venue. Arriving early can be key. Just as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location. Getting the right spot at the event can make or break a night.
4:30 p.m. - The crew sets up for service.
5:20 p.m. - The madness begins when the first order comes in.
5:40 p.m. - On this night, Bite is training a new guy on the flattop, not the easiest environment for a rookie. The burgers come flying off the flattop, and the finishing touches are put on the burgers before they go out the window.
5:45 p.m. - Haulover Park is now a hive of activity; volleyball nets are up, a DJ booth thumps, and throngs of children run wildly for the two huge blow-up castle slides.
6:00 p.m. - The crowd thickens and Bite is inundated with its first line of the night. A ten-person-deep line is craving burgers, and the truck's kitchen is beginning to feel like a sauna.
6:10 p.m. - A holler erupts from the Bite truck. The first tip of the night always earns a big shout. In food truck lore, the yell makes people behind the first tipper really feel like they have to tip. The next person in line -- wait for it -- gives a tip. Now Bite is rolling.
6:16 p.m. - The big boys arrive. Three hulking, hungry men order the triple burger with fried egg, bacon, and chipotle mayo. One of them sports all gold teeth. Classic.
6:20 p.m. - The locker-room culture of the food truck kitchen rears its head when a beautiful girl walks by. Works halts for a second or two. Boys will be boys.
6:25 p.m. - Beauty is fleeting, and the Y chromosomes in the truck have moved their sights to a lovely lady with tiny little white shorts. Boys will be boys.
6:45 p.m. - The first lull hits like the wind suddenly dying at sea. A quick survey estimates several hundred people milling around, about 40 kids dancing to the DJ, and a professional group of girls playing volleyball.
6:55 p.m. - The lull ends, and the storm descends. Within seconds, 15 burgers, 12 orders of French fries, and six shakes are in the lineup. A flurry of activity ensues.
7:30 p.m. - A constant bombardment of patrons hasn't stopped for 35 minutes. The truck kitchen is a blur of motion, a jazz ensemble of cooking in a confined space. Bite has attracted 20 people deep and is cooking 40 burgers on the flat top. The buns are lined up with the calling of ingredients. The cashier has been drafted as a fry cook as well. The blender thunders at a deluge of shake orders. Nothing invites chaos like a line of hungry people.
8 p.m. - The storm begins to subside. Drunk time arrives. An inebriated fellow decides to buy two ladies in front of him their burgers and shakes. Drunk hour does mean one good thing: Tips grow larger.
8:05 p.m. - A group that follows Bite on Twitter has come all the way from Fort Lauderdale, and after eating their burgers, they gather at the side door to exclaim it's the best burger and give a thumbsup. These small moments make sweating in a truck for five hours straight worth it.
8:10 p.m. - Portobello mushroom supplies are exhausted. The Tree Hugger burger will have to be served with sautéed mushrooms.
8:15 p.m. - The masses continue to flood in; the cashier counts 25 people in line.
8:30 p.m. - Two firefighters order the BAMF (double burger, American cheese, Bite's famous bacon onion jam, and chipotle mayo). All firefighters and police officers get half off. Thank you, first responders!
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9:20 p.m. - The frenzied pace continues, and burgers fly off the grill. The BAMF and the Big Easy (double burger with fried egg, aged cheddar, and bacon) are top sellers today, although the Local is running a cool third.
9:30 p.m. - Lord have mercy -- at last, service is over. The crew sighs and high-fives; another service is complete. Clean up begins.
10 p.m. - The truck heads out for the night, but ready to start all over again tomorrow.