Luchador Gourmet Streatery doesn’t just want to feed you. Luchador wants to make your day. That’s what the technicolour Mexican wrestling masks are about – everyone who works on the truck wears one. That’s why the Waterloo based truck makes Mexican fusion cuisine that’ll leave you gob-smacked. All that AND they’ll take pictures with your kids.
From the start, Luchador owners Reuben Salonga and Emma Putt set out to make a difference. They launched the truck in late July 2013, and won awards just weeks later at Awestruck (the biggest food truck rally in Canada.). For Luchador, going the extra distance is what it’s all about:
“Of course everything relies on your food being rock star. That’s the backbone of any food business,” says Reuben. “But we wanted the ability to park our truck and have it say: ‘You should line up here rather than over there’. So you want to have curb appeal. At Luchador, we make sure that every opportunity we get, we interact with customers. We wear the masks. We’ll take pictures with kids. It’s that next level of interaction. We wanted to bring entertainment to our food truck service.”
The Mexican-fusion/Luchador concept came from lots of research and some street sense. “We wanted to challenge ourselves to come up with something different from brick and mortar establishments and from other trucks. We decided on Mexican. I wanted to do fusion Mexican,” says Reuben. “The minute you say fusion the whole world is your playground. You just had to travel there by way of Mexico. So we do Mexican Korean, Mexican Hawaiian, Mexican Italian.”
And about that rock star food? Reuben says he sticks to a menu of tried and true winners. Popular items include a Korean taco on a naan bread with crumbled tofu, jack cheese and broccoli slaw. Shrimp madras is a hit as is a very spicy Philly cheese steak. And let’s not forget the item that swept the best menu item award at Awestruck 2013 – the five spice pork steam bun taco. “We do our homemade version of the folded steam bun. We do that from scratch, with five-spice pork belly,” says Reuben.
Between them, Emma and Reuben have 40+ years experience in the restaurant and food service industry. They started the truck because they were turned on by the growing trend of mobile food and also saw a chance to pioneer the movement in Emma’s Waterloo hometown. Turns out, Waterloo’s restrictive bylaws make doing business very tricky, so the truck can often be seen in the streets of Hamilton, a city enjoying a thriving street food scene. Reuben says the Hamilton food truck community has taken the Luchadors under its wing. “They embraced us, told us about what events we could try to squeeze into. I openly call Graham from Gorilla Cheese my mentor.”
Back home in Waterloo, they’ve taken on the role of community organizers. “We make sure we work in Waterloo once a week just to support the local scene,” says Reuben. “We can’t wait for our city to save the developing local food trucks scene. So we’re trying to get organized ourselves.”
Reuben remains determined and optimistic – even claiming that doing a whole lunch service in a neoprene luchador mask is no problem and heck, you even forget you’re wearing it! And he remembers why he’s in this business. “It’s really amazing thing, to watch people discover a new flavour profile. These are genuine food experiences. You’ve got to love food to do this stuff.”
Writing by Cindy McGlynn. Photos by Jesse Milns.