Tag Archives: Guerrilla Canteen

Year 1 Week 3: Happy Birthday America! What it’s all about.

76Image_SCRC

This post is dedicated to SSG Montes, SSG Patterson and SSG Pernell of the United States Army Recruiting Center. Thank You Gentlemen for your service.

Standing at the grill, I carefully flipped a burger for Staff Sergeant Carlos Montes from the Harrisburg U.S. Army Recruiting Center and I thought about a fourth of July 40 years ago.

I was six years old for America’s Bicentennial in 1976. Being a kid from South Jersey’s blue-collared suburbs, I lived in the shadow of the birthplace of America. Just over the bridge, a short subway ride away, towered the dirty, racially tense City of Brotherly Love. To a fat south Jersey kid, Philadelphia was the house of the Broad Street Bullies, where the Flyers beat the Buffalo Sabres a year earlier to win the Stanley Cup. It was the home of America’s first zoo, Rocky,  the Liberty Bell, cheese steaks and Independence Hall.

Philadelphia has always been a city of contrasts. In 1976 the City placed the “Love” sculpture in JFK Plaza. That same year the city had over 700 murders and the unemployment rate was 11.3 percent. Today, Philly has the worst poverty rate of the ten largest U.S Cities but has 11 billionaires who made the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list. For every “Rocky” story  that Philadelphia gives birth, you’ll find ten stories of violence, poverty, drug addiction and despair. For every Saint Katherine Drexel or Saint John Newman the city creates, there are ten thousand pimps, drug dealers,freaks, felons, mobsters, thieves and miscreants that call Philadelphia home  . For every Margaret Meade or Issac Asimov created by Philadelphia, a thousand desperate souls never realize their full potential or find their brilliance and live their dream. Philadelphia you see, is not like America, Philadelphia is America. It’s the same scenario from sea to shining sea.

The food truck was hot as I carefully ladled and extra-large scoop of bacon jam on the roll. I desperately wanted SSG Montes to enjoy his meal. It was the most important event of Dave’s and my day. More important than making money. More important than gaining fans. More important than anything. I thought back to 1976.

I remember watching the ships in the harbour on TV. I remember parades and sparklers and block parties with tipsy Uncle Sams and Ben Franklin. I can still smell charcoal, hot dogs and beer.

As a kid, I was unaware of the heavy, social, moral and political implications of the big city. Through my eyes, I understood the historical significance of Philly but in my fragile mind, the urban experience was a kaleidoscope of fun times at zoos, sporting events, museums, fireworks, parades and parks. To me, it really was the City of Brotherly Love.

A whiff of charred burger jarred me back to 2016.

I make no apologies for Philadelphia or America for that matter. The wise old guys in triangle hats gave us a shot. America doesn’t owe you anything. Philadelphia doesn’t owe you anything. Let me make something clear:The Declaration of Independence is really specific about what God gives us. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness. These unalienable Rights are transformational. It gives the drug addict the chance to someday become the Doctor. The thief could choose to be a lawyer. The sinner can create a path to sainthood. The poor have a chance at prosperity. There are no guarantees of happiness. I think the greatest gift our country gives us is not only the opportunity to succeed, but also to fail . It’s entirely up to you.

My wife Michelle handed SSG Carlos Montes the perfect Guerrilla Burger and he shared his story.go army

” My mom brought me to America from Honduras when I was 14. To me, I associated America with great things in my childhood. In Honduras the American missionaries brought books and clothes. I had fun at Sunday school.”

He continued,” When we first came to America we lived in Florida and I was really confused because everyone spoke Spanish. I taught myself english by studying and watching television.”

” Years later, I had a good job at a law firm and September 11 happened and I couldn’t resist joining the Army. People told me that I was nuts to leave my good job to serve in the military. I felt like it was something that I had to do.”

” I’m proud to be a part of the 1% of Americans who serve in the United States Military. Ironically,  my son goes to boot camp on September 11th of this year.”

I shot a look at Dave and our eyes spoke to one another, ” That’s what it’s all about.”

 

When you’re celebrating America’s Birthday have fun. Hug your kids. Kiss your spouse beneath the rockets red glare. Enjoy yourself. Pursue your Happiness.

After the charcoal in your grill smolders to a white ash and the orange glow of sparklers lose their luster and turn sooty black, tuck your kids in bed knowing that Staff Sergeant Carlos Montes and his son are willing to sacrifice their lives to defend yours. And if you could,  in the stillness in your heart, ask your creator to keep all of our military safe. It’s the very least we can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Year 1 week 3: Down the Rabbit Hole

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
― Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland

I put the headphones on my skull and turned the volume up to 8. “If it’s too loud you’re too old.”, I thought as I eased my weary hide into the plush confines of my leather recliner.  Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”  swirled in my brain as I reflected on the days events.

Dave and I did it. With the help of Michelle my beautiful wife, we completed our first successful event. We made a  profit. It wasn’t perfect, but it was satisfying.

Grace Slick warbled the psychedelic hippy anthem in my ear, “…one pill makes you larger…”

All the fear, all the doubt, all the insecurities and B.S. that haunted my mind were gone. All the frustration, all the questions and all the fear associated with running a successful food truck melted away. I felt at peace.

Dave, with his Cheshire grin, was masterful in the truck. Focused, driven, and calm he produced meals effortlessly; selflessly. The guy looked like he was working in a kitchen his entire life. Dave has soul and I love him for that.

Michelle worked the window with that gorgeous southern drawl that I fell in love with the first day I heard her voice. Burgers and empanadas  flew out the window with ease.

And I, the Mad Hatter, joyously flipped burgers on the grill, flambe’d bananas Foster on the saute station, and ladled out bacon jam carefully, lovingly in a single-minded desire to feed the masses something unique.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was at a dead-end job, unfulfilled and punching the clock like millions of other blue-collar  zombies trying to make a difference inside the big machine. I felt free for the first time in many years and it was all due to Dave and my diligence, sweat, money and time and the support and love of our friends and family. Our dream had become reality.  Rarely are dreams are validated, legitimized and made concrete.

The Airplane droned on,”…and the white knight is talking backwards…”  I thought about the Hippies at Woodstock. I wondered if they would enjoy The Guerrilla Burger. I always had a special place in my heart for that generation. Some of them fought and died in Vietnam while others stayed stateside and protested. They stopped a war with music and art.

White Rabbit reached it’s  crescendo, ” FEED YOUR HEAD… FEED YOUR HEAD.”

I think the Hippies would have loved the Guerrilla Burger.

Year 1,Week 2. Welcome to the Jungle

Besides  creating amazing food, the imagery on your food truck is probably the single most important marketing tool in your arsenal. A pink truck covered in poodles that serves cupcakes gives off a distinct vibe. An Army green,battle-scarred war wagon with tank tracks gives another.

Dave and I have been meeting with Jeff, our vinyl wrap specialist, at JK Signs in New Cumberland to hammer out some of our ideas and to get some visual cues on what Maybelline would actually look like. We believe our design is edgy, eye-catching and crystallizes Guerrilla Canteen’s military theme.

We got some roughs from Jeff earlier in the week that featured a Gorilla and it felt like something was missing.truck wrap 2

 

Dave summed it up in one sentence, “Maybelline should look like she drove out of the jungle after a battle.”

I looked at the monitor and spoke ” I love the color, Jeff. I like the grunge.”

“But one thing is missing…” I paused ,” Remove the monkey. ..It needs tank treads.”

After looking at photos of half tracks, Jeff chose a suitable image and quickly cropped and sized the treads to fit the rear wheel well of the step van.

Jeff sat back in his chair and said, “This is a rough idea just to see what it looks like.”

I looked over at Dave and He smiled from ear to ear.

Jeff took a breath and swiveled in his chair.” I’m really picky and hard to please.” His eyes widened,” When I’m done with this thing people are going to be touching the vinyl to see if the treads are real.”Truck rendering

I  felt really excited to finally see some progress on the wrap.  Silently I thought,

” Welcome to the Jungle.”

 

Year 1 week 2 Do the Hustle

Excited after having a successful soft opening, Dave and I looked through the comment cards to gauge our performance. ” This one is all 10’s.”, Dave laughed as he held up the Guerrilla Sauce stained paper. Glancing over his shoulder, I recognized my Mom’s handwriting and dismissed it without telling Dave my secret. ” Another one with all nines and tens”, Dave grinned.  As the pile got smaller and we read the results (Best burger ever! Loved the food. You guys rock) it dawned on me. Dave and I did a really good job on our first outing in the food truck. People enjoyed our food and had a great time and Dave and I felt the pride of having our dream come to fruition. That evening after the high-fives and the euphoria of accomplishing our goal, I felt satisfied and stared at the ceiling fan in bed and dreamed of thousand burger food festivals and hundreds of people buying our food.

Dave and I met on several occasions after the event and quickly got to work on securing permits and finding events for us to sell. Our first official calendar date is July 8 but we have a lot of things to accomplish before we are ready to sell. The truck is inspected by the Department of Agriculture of Pennsylvania,  our permits are secured to sell food in Hershey and everything is in place to hit the streets except for three details.

  1. Maybelline needs to get a vinyl wrap  complete with logos, bullet holes and tank treads.
  2. We need a second fridge installed so that we can do volume sales
  3. We need places to sell.

Owning a food truck is teaching us the value of what I like to call “Hustle”. No, it’s not the sleazy Times Square (ca. 1975) Three card Monte hustle designed to steal money from tourists. You hustle while serving food or prepping eM.P.anadas. You Hustle by sourcing quality ingredients at low prices. You hustle by fostering relationships. We are meeting with event organizers, fire hall chiefs, local businesses and anyone who will listen to us.

Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony had a hit in the summer 1975 entitled  “The Hustle”.  It went to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts and won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The song has two lyrics in its annoying 4 minutes and 10 seconds. The chorus is ” Do the Hustle” and during the intro they say “Do it”.  It’s a pretty good philosophy.  Nike stole the ” Do it” part. I’m stealing the “Do the Hustle” part. Hell, if you buy a Guerrilla Burger from us, I’ll sport a beige leisure suit and boogie down the Soul Train line. So will Dave. Sing along now!  Do the Hustle!  Doot-Doot-Doot-Do-Doot-Da-Doot-Doot….

Tasting Menu for June 9, 2016

The Guerrilla Burger: Our flame licked quarter pound beef burger is a real handful. Topped with Apple Bourbon Bacon Jam, Sauteed Onions and Peppers, Southwestern Slaw and your choice of  Maytag Blue Cheese or Sharp Cheddar. Served on a Toasted Brioche roll.

 

The Guerrilla Dawg:  Grilled Kosher Beef Frank, Apple Bourbon Bacon Jam, Sauteed onions and peppers, Southwestern Slaw and your choice of Maytag Blue Cheese or Sharp Cheddar. Served on a toasted Dawg Roll.

 

Reuben eM.P.anada: Corned Beef, Swiss Cheese and Sauerkraut stuffed inside a pastry Disco and fried until golden brown. Served with Thousand Island on the side. 

Day 121: Yes Virginia, There is an Appliance Fairy

Anticipation is a great thing. It heightens our senses. It gives us something to get excited about. Remember when you were a kid and you lost a tooth and how full of joy you were to get a buck from the Tooth Fairy? Your joy wasn’t about the reward as much as the fun of anticipation. Hopefully you have anticipated this blog post. My lack of writing lately hasn’t been the result of neglect or laziness or waning focus or interest. I wanted to build your anticipation. Hopefully, I have your attention. Guerrilla Canteen is moving forward.

The Guerrilla Canteen food truck build has accelerated in leaps and bounds. A lot of amazing progress has been made and I’ve been really excited to share the news with you.

Maybelline’s service window is installed and Dave looks really good in it. Dave and I are super stoked because our dream is rapidly becoming a reality. We can almost smell the meat sizzling.

Daves new home.
Dave’s new home.
Yessirr, twenty Guerrilla Burgers right away!
Yessirr, twenty Guerrilla Burgers right away!

Another major hurdle was conquered by the D man this week. For about a month Dave has been telling me that the kitchen equipment Fairy might show up and all of our problems would be solved. I blew it off as Dave just joking around but guess what? The equipment fairy did show up and he had a huge cache of goodies for the Guerrillas including a char broiler, a four burner saute’ station, a flat top, a two basket fryer and a sandwich station. I just hope Dave doesn’t need that kidney he sold on Ebay. All joking aside, the kitchen equipment  Fairy is Dave Laman and it’s moments like this that I have to commend the guy’s stubbornness, drive and focus. Without Dave Laman, there is no Guerrilla Canteen.

Pam's Station
Pam’s Station
sandwich too
Shiny is good.
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Yes Virginia, there is a Kitchen Appliance Fairy.

fryer boxes2 boxes4

Day 105: The Guerrilla Burger

With the Labor Day holiday coming on Monday, my thoughts always revolve around the grill. And what is more iconic grill fare than a burger? I love a cheeseburger almost as much as any food. To me a burger is like sex. When it’s good, it’s really good and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

Dave and I were in the kitchen designing a signature burger for Guerrilla Canteen and here’s what we came up with. This will be an item you can get on our truck every day, our version of the Big Mac, but better.

hamburger-312233_640

The Guerrilla Burger starts with a hand crafted, quarter pound of 80/20 ground USDA sirloin cooked to your liking. I suggest medium rare but Dave is in the medium to medium well camp. We take that burger and season it with a mixture of three parts black truffle salt to one part pepper and a splash of liquid smoke. The Guerrilla burger will be primarily cooked in a saute’ pan and finished  on the char-broiler. I know what you are thinking, Why don’t you put that cheeseburger right on the grill? Burgers  cooked on the grill lose most of their juices and tend to be dry. By caramelizing the beef in a pan, all the juices are locked inside creating a more juicy product. The charred effect can be achieved by simply putting the burger on the grill after the caramelization process takes place. I like the char and so do you and that’s why we are taking the time to put it there. Who doesn’t like diamond-shaped grill marks on their burger?

While the beef is happily sizzling in the pan, we will saute’ onions and green peppers in butter. Seasoned with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar, we think it compliments our burger quite well. You will too.

 The cheese. In our test we used gouda which was really delicious. Cheddar came in a close second but I have to say I think Blue cheese would be even better. Dave and I debated this point for a considerable amount of time and reached a stalemate. You can help us decide who is right by taking the poll at the end of the post.

Bacon Jam. Oh yeah! What’s a burger without  crispy, smoky, salty  bacon. It’s like Laverne without Shirley; Rocky without Bullwinkle or  Simon without Garfunkle. ( Scratch the last one, Paul Simon is doing fine without Garfunkle.) This is bacon heaven folks and you need to eat this today. You can find a great recipe for bacon jam here.

Guerrilla Sauce. No it’s not thousand Island dressing but it is our secret sauce. The recipe was discovered in a clandestine military kitchen in Area 51 and smuggled to us by a nameless source after the cold war.  It has mayo, smoked chipotle, cumin and other ingredients that are top-secret. It’s a little spicy but not abrasive and Dave and Pam said they would like to dump it on everything they eat. It’s really good. So good, that in the future we would like to put it into bottles and sell you some.

The Bun. For our test we used toasted potato rolls which tasted great. Dave and I agreed that we need to shop for a better roll for the Guerrilla Burger. We need a roll that can stand up to the bold flavors that we are throwing at you. We are searching for the perfect brioche.

Day 106: FRAGEELAY

I was sitting on the couch watching the news when there was a knock on the door. On my front porch stood a delivery man and a huge crate constructed out of 2×4’s and plywood with the word FRAGILE  stenciled in big  letters on the beat up plywood. “Frageelay.”, I giggled to myself feeling a bit like Ralphies Dad, Darren McGavin, in A Christmas Story. ” I smiled and said to myself, ” It must be Italian.”

Continue reading Day 106: FRAGEELAY

Day 97: Build Sheet Progress

Just to get everyone up to speed Maybelline will be in the shop for a few days getting a generator installed. We managed to find a used RV generator at a reasonable price and our builder is fabricating a box that will be mounted under the truck on the side opposite of the service window so our customers won’t have to breathe exhaust. The generator will provide electricity for interior lighting, refrigeration and a few small appliances and receptacles. I’m ordering our service window today and that should be installed after the generator. By next week our build sheet should look like this.

Done

Install back door

Install generator

Install service window

Front end alignment and tires

To Do

Back bumper fabricated with LP Tank supports/cage

Run gas lines, wiring, receptacles, breaker box

Construct interior walls

Purchase and install hood vent/ fire supression

Purchase and install appliances

Purchase and install 4 compartment sink

Build partition between driver compartment and kitchen

Construct walls with insulation and washable surfaces

Paint and graphics

It’s nice to see the list get shorter but we have a ways to go before we can serve food. Dave is excited to order and buy our appliances; particularly the fryer since I’ve got him addicted to empanadas. I’m in love with the sandwich station and the grill.  As soon as we can. we will post pictures of the build, so stay tuned.