Time Out Chicago elaborates on last week's story that Paul Kahan was thinking of "going rogue" with the Big Star food truck. Although they fill in many of the details, they're still not sure if they think Kahan is actually going to go out and break the food truck regs or not. Well, reading it we think we know what the plan really is, and how Kahan & Co. intend to try to push the food truck cause forward— legally.
Here's the story as Time Out tells it. Big Star ordered their truck fully battle-equipped to make pastor tacos and Sonoran hot dogs on board. (We don't think there would be much point to Big Star food that was wrapped in plastic for an hour before you got it, and apparently they didn't either.) Their hope was that by the time they got it, the laws would have changed and cooking on board would be legit. That didn't happen and so they had steel coverings installed for the working equipment on board the truck. Still, they failed their health inspection as soon as the inspector saw a cutting board sitting out on the truck— prima facie evidence that they planned to commit chopping with intent to serve. At that point, they decided to hell with it, and ripped the steel covers out like pirates tearing down the British flag and raising the skull and crossbones.
And so they talk back and forth in the rest of the article about possibly maybe breaking the law. Or not. It all suits Big Star's outlaw-taco-bar image, but color us skeptical that these super-smart guys are actually planning to write a new verse to "I Fought the Law and the Law Won."
Blackbird-The Publican-The Violet Hour-etc. may make a nice-sized restaurant empire, but it's still a rebel ship orbiting Tatooine next to the Imperial dreadnought that is Chicago government. And the health department can give you trouble from here to Alderaan without breaking a sweat if you provoke them enough. Back in the dark days of the foie gras ban, Doug Sohn got busted, paid his $250 fine, and enjoyed the publicity. And then he stopped serving foie gras until the ban was lifted— he knew that once was good publicity, but twice was asking for proctology from city government.
Here's what we think Big Star's strategy is— and it's not only smarter, it's probably more likely to succeed. We Are Not A Lawyer (even our wife is Not That Kind of Lawyer) but as we understand it, once you're parked on private property, you can slice, dice and roast anything you like in your food truck— at that point you're not a food truck, you're a caterer, with a different set of rules.
So Big Star is going to simulate the food truck experience— but only where it can park and be safe. For the first time, we will see someone regularly doing what food trucks want to do in this city‚ serving patrons in bars, office buildings, wherever freshly made food. It will be the authentic food truck experience— but it will be happening on private land.
And it will demonstrate that there is nothing deadly, scary, or threatening to existing businesses (at least the ones that can actually compete without governmental protection) about food trucks. In short, it will aim to show that the regulations are unnecessary, out of date, a relic of the past out of touch with how people are already eating— and thus provide a high-profile example for those working to change them to point to.
Big Star's food truck failed inspection. Will it go rogue? [Time Out Chicago]