As my beat-up Volvo begrudgingly climbed over traffic-covered hills, the soreness in my arm was beginning to dissipate. As I ventured into an unknown territory, (whose location shall remain undisclosed) I was ready to face whatever hot dogular obstacles came my way.
I met Jonathan and his Dogtown Dogs crew of two on the truck. Business was slow (the calm before the storm), and I was thinking that this wouldn’t be too bad. I set my things down on a pile of Mexican Coca Cola palates. My first task was to take an order.
“I’ll stand behind you and you just have to repeat whatever I say.”
“Wait, so you aren’t going to tell me ahead of time?” I had never been a ventriloquist puppet before (like most people, I hope)! I stepped up to the window, and with a big uneasy grin looked down at the customer.
“What can I get for ya?” I was already taking matters into my own hands.
“I’ll have one Dogtown Dog.”
“Any tots with that?” Jonathan said behind me.
Was he talking to me or someone else?
“Me?” I said, forgetting to turn away from the old man.
“Nothing. Any tots with that?” I blurted out, attempting to preserve any ounce of poise I had left.
“That’ll be 5 dollars,” I heard behind me.
“That’ll be five dollars please,” I mimicked, breathless.
Once Old Man Jenkins walked away, I turned around.
“Fun, isn’t it,” Jonathan managed to blurt out between laughs.
“Yeah,” I sighed, but my voice was drowned out by a loud crash. In moving something on the truck, my bag had toppled off the 6 palate high tower it was resting precariously on top of. The crash was not comforting. Sure enough, the lens of my fancy shmancy SLR camera had shattered.
To make matters worse, my arm was hurting again.
“Sorry hun,” the chef said, not realizing what had happened. That’s what warranties are for!
After emotionally confronting the loss of my technological pride and joy, I sat back to watch Jonathan and his crew do their thing. In his own words, “it’s a dance.” The three guys had created such an unbelievable system. Orders were taken, read, and executed with such precision and accuracy. The guys wove in and out of each other’s paths; a dab of guac here, a pump of chili cheese there! Everybody’s happy! Or so you would think. Understanding the mayhem and scientific precision, not to mention rogue splashes of burning oil, you’d think these guys would get a little more appreciation. They’re making food on a truck for Pete’s sake!
But alas, the sugar high kids and their high maintenance mothers weren’t exactly pleased with the situation. As the line grew longer, I alleviated the stress of such a small kitchen team by taking orders. I looked out the window and realized that I had just assigned my own demise. The monster had grown, I realized, rubbing my seemingly lead infused arm. A giant line of similar looking Stepford wives snaked across the pavement, and behind slightly tinted designer sunglasses, I could see their evil eyes watching my every move. These mammas were hungry, and they were relying on me to get them their fix.
For once in my vertically challenged life, I was tall. I looked over my people with pride and said to myself “You can do—”
“Excuse me!” To my left was a pseudo-tan woman donning a Maxi dress and sunhat. She was inside the truck.
“If you could just go a little faster?”
I twitched. Behind me, three sweaty guys were working their butts off at light speed. Seriously, I couldn’t even tell who was whom anymore. They were moving so fast. It was loud, as they called out orders to each other and passed over ingredients. She faced them, fully aware of their strife.
“Yeah, I’ll tell them to speed it up.”
I was stunned. The mob outside was angry. Angry that they were waiting. Waiting for a hotdog they didn’t even know existed until five minutes ago. But now? Now they needed it.
“Did she just come on to the truck?” Jonathan asked, leaning away from the scalding hot tots in front of him. “These people!”
As I walked back over to my position at the window, the pain in my arm climaxed. It ached with such intensity I was sure it was going to fall off.
“What can I get you today?” I said, fighting back a reaction to the dull throbbing my left bicep was being subjected to.
“I’ll take 60 California Dogs.”
“Any tots with that?” I said to buy myself some time to work out that ridiculous math problem.
“Uh, yeah! I’ll take 5 plain, 3 Buffalo, and 2 Cheese.”
Crap. The voice of reason behind me, also known as Roaming Hunger’s own Greg took over, as my brain exploded a little bit.
I stepped away from the window, only to realize that I was unable to lift my arm. Literally, I couldn’t lift it. “I have typhoid.” I think the heat was getting to me. I tried to drink water, but couldn’t bring the bottle to my mouth. The mob grew louder.
“Hi, what can I get for you?”
“I’ll have the Cheese Tater Tots, but can I have grated cheddar cheese instead of the Chili Cheese?”
“We don’t have cheddar.”
“Oh, that’s cool.” She walked away.
Soon after, another similar looking trophy wife wandered off with a six-pack of San Pellegrino lemonades. I may have been tall, but I was helpless. We tried to catch her, but she disappeared into a crowd of same-faced females.
“Hiiiiiiii.” I jumped. There she was again, standing inside the truck. Or was that someone else?
“Yeah, um, people are really unhappy out here. Could you just like, bring out a bowl of tots while they wait?”
“A. If there were enough tots ready for that, people wouldn’t be waiting. B. Get the hell off the truck!”
“We’re moving as fast as we can, we’ll try to speed it up,” I said instead, coaxing her out of the kitchen.
I noticed that I was catching on to the ways of a food trucker. Jonathan, for example, is really great at changing personalities at the flip of a bun. He can be the most pleasant cashier you’ve ever met, and then turn around to command his crew with authority. It’s night and day on the truck, and as night turned to day, the crowd finally wound down.
The last little boy ordered his plain hot dog as I sat back to taste what all the fuss was about. Mexican Coca Cola in (non typhoid) hand, I watched as my very own California Dog was being prepared. I didn’t ask for a bowl of tots while I was waiting, but I definitely experienced that same inner urgency I witnessed throughout the night.
Greg asked why I had been rubbing my arm all night.
“Oh, I just got a vaccine earlier today.”
When it was finally mine, I smiled a smile that you could only smile after working on a food truck for an entire night. This was the finish line, and it tasted great. The California Dog, with its avocado mash, garlic aioli, and crispy onions, hit the spot after a long, exhilarating night on the Dogtown Dogs truck.
Food trucks bring gourmet food where it’s otherwise unexpected. As much as I’d like to hate those Botox beauties I served all night, I totally get it. The food you get from a truck like Dogtown Dogs gives you an unparalleled experience. You get to be a part of a movement. Eating from a food truck invites you into an elite community of food lovers, and it feels great to say “I ate at a truck today!”
It’s so easy to get caught up in the mayhem of ordering, instagraming, and eating that you forget that the food truck isn’t a magical creature that procures deliciousness. It’s a vector for real people…real chefs, to create works of art that deserve care and precision. I was amazed at the synergy I witnessed and participated in on the Dogtown Dogs truck. As exhausting and sometimes frustrating as my night was, it was well worth it to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on behind closed doors.
by Sienna Mintz