It’s pretty amazing how the food truck scene has blown up in the last few years. Every day there are food truck events in all parts of the Bay Area. Friday nights at Fort Mason are absolutely insane, as there are over 40 trucks that come out, including a beer truck! All of this got me thinking…who was there when it all began? Who paved the way? Who’s still around? Immediately, the Chairman Truck popped into my head. They are food truck legends that you may have even seen on the Food Network show Eat St., in an earlier season. They make the most amazing bao (aka bun) sandwiches (the Coca-Cola braised pork bao with savoy cabbage and preserved mustard seeds is my favorite). I contacted them and requested to meet with Chef Hiroo to talk about how The Chairman Truck got started, and what he’s done to stay ahead of the game. Guess what?! They agreed to meet!
Last Saturday, Chef Hiroo took an Uber all the way from San Francisco to meet me at a street food event in Alameda. I must admit that I was pretty nervous prior to meeting him. In doing some research I was a bit intimidated after learning that Chef Hiroo previously worked at Bar Charlie, a top notch Japanese Restaurant in Las Vegas owned by the legendary restaurateur Charlie Trotter. However, all was at ease when he arrived wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie and a hip-looking trilby hat. He was quite personable, and very easy to talk with.
My first question was the obvious: How did the Chairman Truck come about? Chef Hiroo explained that back in 2009 he met Josh Tang, the man behind Mobi Munch, while working at Bar Charlie. As Bar Charlie was getting ready to close their doors, Josh approached Hiroo and told him about his business concept. Hiroo had never thought about opening a food truck, however, after speaking with Josh about his vision, Hiroo was up for the challenge, and The Chairman Truck was created.
The menu concept comes from Hiroo spending much time in Japan, where street food is creative, colorful, and full of flavors. He wanted to bring that to the scene and share the various Asian cultures and flavors with the masses, since it was something that hadn’t been done before. The bao is a steamed or baked bun usually stuffed with a variation of fillings. Hiroo’s creations are Pan Asian with hints of Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese & Japanese elements.
My next subject for Hiroo was their marketing, as it is key for any food truck’s survival, and they are definitely one step ahead of everyone else. He commissioned James Jean, a famous LA-based street artist, to design everything, from their awesome logo and truck design, to their cool t-shirts. He wanted something modern, edgy, and Asian influenced, and James Jean executed this vision flawlessly. The Chairman was one of the first to participate in the food truck events at Fort Mason, when there were only 5 trucks present. As mentioned earlier, there are now over 40 trucks that gather weekly. The Chairman now comprises 3 trucks operating daily at various locations around the Bay, actively using social media to engage and update their followers on their current locations.
If you’re wondering what’s up and coming for Chef Hiroo and the Chairman, well, they’re about to open a brick and mortar spot in San Francisco very soon. It’s going to be a small location, with the same menu, that will allow fans of the Chairman to sit down and enjoy a bao or two. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out their new spot and seeing what Hiroo and the Chairman crew do next to keep the food truck movement moving forward.