James Foxall of OC Foodie Fest (and Taco Dawg), Part Two
|Photo: Meg Strouse|
|James Foxall and Virginia Strickland, organizers of the OC Foodie Fest|
OC Weekly: Many restaurateurs sneer at the trucks, saying they're not real restaurants. The more militant of them snipe about how they steal business from bricks-and-mortar restaurants. What's your response to that?
James Foxall: They're right on one point. We're not traditional restaurants; we're mobile, but that doesn't make our job any easier. In a lot of cases it makes what we do harder. A restaurant doesn't have to worry about flat tires or brakes. My first night in business, I drained my battery (rookie mistake) and had to sleep in the truck. What restaurant has to deal with stuff like that? That's what makes what these trucks are able to accomplish that much more impressive. I don't like the phrase stealing business. When you go into any business, you're going to have competition. People are either going to take customers away from you or you're going to take them from somebody else. Personally, it motivates me to know there is somebody out there plotting to take my business, which makes me make my product better. Ultimately, the consumer wins, which is how it should be.
OCW: What's the hardest food to serve from a truck?
JF: Well, you can serve most anything. I guess it comes down to space, speed and talent.
OCW: What one food-police regulation would you ease, if you were the head of the Orange County Health Care Agency?
JF: I'm from the military, so I'm used to rules and regulations, but honestly I don't know if I would change a thing. The folks down at the health department are very thorough and professional. I was anticipating a nightmare of a bureaucratic system but it was very smooth. On a side note, the consumers would be pleased to know that this a very involved health department; they do regular and surprise inspections and provide tons of resources to fix problems quickly and effectively. OC in general has its act together.
OCW: Besides New York, what's the best city for street food in the United States?
JF: Oooh, another toughie. I would say it's a tie between Seattle and Chicago, but I haven't been to Austin yet and I hear they have some dynamite stuff.
OCW: Who's your favorite celebrity chef?
JF: Well, Bobby Flay taught me everything I know about steaks (not personally) and I seriously think he's the Godfather, and Guy Fieri is my dude, but Giada beats them all in the looks department.
OCW: Who's the celebrity chef who needs to just shut up?
JF: I dunno. I'm not really one to tell anybody to shut it. Would they listen if I did? I wouldn't.
OCW: What's the weirdest street food you've ever eaten?
JF: When I lived in Japan, I had things like fried quail eggs and octopus, but the weirdest thing (and crunchiest) was fried chicken cartilage. Mind you, these are only weird to a kid from the Midwest and my limited palate.
OCW: What do you want to see more of in OC from a gastronomic standpoint?
JF: First, I had to look up what gastronomic meant. If you're asking what I would like to see in the community at large and the food they eat and how they eat it, then ask me in 30 days.
OCW: What could OC do with less of from a gastronomic standpoint?
JF: Food snobs.
OCW: If you could give truck owners and operators one piece of advice to improve their operation, what would it be?
JF: Remember the 7 P's: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.