Authentic tacos, arepas and homemade epanadas. Those are just some of the items that will be coming off Toronto’s newest food truck – the Gourmet Gringos.
The Gringos are the latest addition to Toronto’s growing roster of food trucks in what has been a breakout year for street food. And from the looks of things, this is just the start.
In 2012 alone, seven gourmet food trucks have launched with a bunch more yet to come.
And not only are the Gourmet Gringos Toronto’s first real Latin street food truck, they’re also one of the easiest to spot with their bright orange, yellow and red wrap.
Owners Krystian Catala and Terry Nicolaou have been in the food business their whole lives and recruited chef Arturo Gresshave who grew up in Mexico surrounded by authentic home cooked meals. He also formally trained at a culinary school in Spain.
The trio has their sights set on bringing something new to Toronto’s food truck scene and are confident their bold latin flavours are going to be a hit.
We met up with them to chat about their new business and check out their shiny new truck.
TFT: So who are you guys and what got you into the food business?
TN: I’ve been in the food business a long time and come from a big Greek family where food is huge and we have big family dinners. My parents used to have a couple little restaurants where they would cook greek food and that’s where I first got exposed to food.
Then growing up I opened up a Wild Wing restaurant and did that for five years and sold it last year.
Krystian is my best friend and for 20 years we always talked about doing something together and he called me up one day and said I got this great idea for a food truck and then literally we bought the truck within 48 hours – and that was ten weeks ago.
TFT: Where did you guys find the truck?
KC: On either Craigslist or Kijiji – I found a bunch of them and just started calling. We made an appointment to see one in Toronto and when we saw it we knew this was our truck.
TFT: So then you guys brought Chef Arturro on board right? What’s your background Arturro?
AG: Well I’m from Mexico and I’ve been in the food industry for 11 years and went to culinary school in Spain. I first met Krystian’s brother and he told me about the truck and I was excited – you know latin food – and I said ‘I’m in’.
TFT: Explain the Gourmet Gringos concept. What are you guys all about?
KC: In terms of the name, my wife and I had a catering company that we called the Gourmet Gringos and we just thought that it sounded good and it worked.
TFT: What about the food that you will be serving on the truck. What can we expect?
AG: The concept is Latin American with a lot of Argentinian and Mexican flavours but we want to do food from a bunch of different places like Central America and South America. And I want to make specials every day. Stuff from El Salvador, Honduras, Columbia – show people that Latin food is amazing and packed with flavour.
TFT: Can you give us some examples from the menu you’re planning?
AG: We have a Spanish burger, an Argentinian burger, a spanish poutine with chorizo and pork belly and a couple salads.
KC: Basically our concept is ‘choose your vessel’ and then ‘choose your protein’. So for your vessel you can choose between arepas, tacos, burritos, tortas, or a poutine. And then you can pick any of our meats – carnitas, cochinita, mole braised short ribs, mexican spiced braised chicken, and our fish which is a mahi mahi.
TN: And everything is done from scratch. The food is quality and we use local ingredients when possible. Arturro marinates the meat for hours – Arturro what’s the process?
AG: I marinate the meat at least overnight, sometimes for two days. I think it’s very important that the meat is given the proper amount of time to marinate.
My training is not in a Michelin Star restaurant but I grew up with this food and I’m really excited to make it. It’s going to be street food with a refined touch.
TFT: Why do you guys think Latin food is so popular as a street food in other cites?
KC: The Latin culture is made up of more than one country – all South and Central America make up the Latin culture. So it’s not just one single country, you’re embracing at least 10-15 different countries which we also see represented in the Toronto area with it being one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world.
We love empanadas and we always said you can’t get a good empanada on the street in Toronto, and for us, that’s what clinched doing a Latin truck.
TN: The food is our strong point. The difficult part was getting the truck built because there’s no blueprint for how to do it and in Toronto is still relatively new. It took us 10 weeks and we built everything on the truck from the ground up.
But in terms of our food, we’re confident people are going to like it.
TFT: What kind of pricing can we expect?
TN: We’re trying to hit a price point that’s fair for us and the consumer.
KC: We have things on the truck for three bucks – like our empanadas. Burritos are $8 and they are large. Tacos are $3 each and although they are small tortillas, they are full.
TN: It’s not all about making money, it’s also about giving Toronto a good Latin street food experience.