There is one thing more memorable than the flavorful, (make you skip dinner) big burger I had for lunch from the Street Chef Brigade food truck. Listening to Shane Coffey, chef and owner, talk about his passion for what he does every day, gave me goosebumps. Here is a person who has turned his talent and experience into a job that he loves… and it’s a huge success!
Shane talked with us for our series, My Experience Food Truck Exclusive. In the Q&A below, he talks about adapting his menu, the ups and downs of the food truck business, and the exciting plans he has up his sleeve! He also provided terrific insight for future food truck operators who may follow in his tracks.
To see other interviews from our food truck series, just click here.
Food Truck Exclusive: Q&A with Shane Coffey from Street Chef Brigade
Tell us about the name Street Chef Brigade. Are you operating multiple trucks?
“This is my only truck right now. I’m building a second truck. Hopefully by March I should have the Galactic Fried Chicken started. It’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait… We’ll have two trucks working simultaneously.
“This is our third season. I’m a chef by trade. Previous to this I was in the Turks and Caicos islands at a private island resort. I’ve had a restaurant in New York City. Aspen, Colorado. My wife wanted to be back home. So I came back to Cincinnati and instead of trying to get into the restaurant business in Cincinnati, I decided to do the food truck. I chose Street Chef Brigade because in my mind I knew I was going to have multiple trucks. So, this has actually been a billboard for the last couple years and what you’re going to see in the next three to six months is Street Chef Burger and More, Galactic Fried Chicken, and then possibly a breakfast truck, all part of the Street Chef Brigade.”
What can we order from Street Chef Brigade?
“Our most popular dish is the burger. It’s bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato. It’s on a challah bun. It’s 100 percent pure, ground beef. It’s easily our most popular item.
“My favorite is the Insane Pastrami. It’s a summer sausage that I actually make. The pastrami part is we coat it in pepper. It is absolutely my favorite sandwich. It comes with slaw with horseradish and mustard relish. It’s on an onion bun (Kroger Private Selection). I did a crazy search for buns. It’s covered with Swiss cheese. It is my favorite on the menu absolutely, for sure. If there would be two things to try sandwich-wise it would be the Burger and the Insane Pastrami.
“We’re also very veggie friendly. Maybe when you first look at the menu it doesn’t seem like it, but we have a veggie medley, we have hummus and pita tips. You can just ask our server at the window since we cook everything pretty much to order, we can adapt pretty easily for the vegetarians.”
What about sides?
“Our kale and parmesan salad I’ve had that with me we were way ahead of the kale curve. Started that in 2004 and can’t get rid of it, as much as sometimes I’d like to. It’s evolving a little bit. Pine nuts are crazy expensive, that’s what it originally had, so now we have hazelnuts and walnuts in it. It’s got basically an Italian dressing on it. The kale is raw and it’s finely cut. Some raisins. It’s oddly addictive. Just like our Jacked Up Doritos. We take regular nacho cheese Doritos and we smother them in truffle butter, a little bit of garlic butter, three cheeses, and fresh herbs. That one is truly oddly addictive. It’s actually taken the place of our fried crushed potatoes for the summer. It’s so hot in the summertime… it’s way too hot for us to work safely, so we developed this Dorito dish. Hopefully, in the next couple of months, the potatoes will be back. We have a mac and cheese with bacon in it. That’s pre-cooked but we warm it up and it’s cheesy and awesome and delicious. It’s probably our third best seller.”
What influences the creation of your menu?
“Mostly just using fresh, we try to stay as local as we can. When I can get organic, I go organic. I definitely look for local first. Our menu doesn’t change a lot, but our ingredients are hand-picked almost every day. I go shopping every day. When I first started I thought I was going to make everything from scratch. It’s just impossible. We’re one the busiest trucks in Cincinnati. We work usually twice per day.”
So scratch-cooking is out. What else should someone know before they go down this road?
“The learning curve on the food truck is crazy. I’ve started three restaurants and I’ve been the owner of one. The learning curve for the food truck is crazy. I learn something new every day. The food part… eh, that was pretty easy to figure out. Just being able to drive 20 minutes without something falling over. Traffic. Everything that you might have saw in the movie Chef but they don’t really show. It’s hard work. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding. I was a part owner of a restaurant but this is completely, 100 percent mine. I love every day of it. Even though I wake up like what the heck am I doing. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
What’s one thing that you can’t live without, as a food truck operator?
“A supportive partner in life. Because the days are long. And they’re not always successful. That might be a cliché answer but that is 100 percent it. That outside support in your life, you truly need that. That’s the one thing that’s gotten me through the trials and tribulations of the food truck industry, having my wife.”