On the Line: Luis Flores of The Viking Truck, Part One

Flores1.JPG
Photo by Johannes Dewald
Onward with his "Caucasian Fusion" cuisine!

A year ago this month, El Jefe requested I write On the Line on a regular basis. Not too long after, they began appearing in our print dead-tree edition. With the series taking up real estate, Gustavo Arellano thought it'd make sense to start conducting in-person interviews (in addition to the questionnaire). When I spend time with a chef, I see the passion that person has for his or her food. Most of the chefs are pretty damn funny, too. My goal is to have their loyal followers get to know the person behind the plate -- and for curious eaters to want to explore their cuisine.

So now I've been asked to modify the questionnaire. The old format was just that--old. I'm recording our sessions and coming up with (hopefully) more interesting things to ask. On the Line 2.0 debuts now. Part One is about the food and nothing else. Part Two will be about anything besides the food. Part Three is still the recipe, but maybe we'll have a few more words from our chef.

Our subject this week is Luis Flores and his luxe lonchera The Viking Truck. I effing love this concept! His theme reminds me of Hagar the Horrible. Tater tots and bread pudding bring out the best in all of us. And sausages and corn dogs? His team makes it work with a little attitude and a LOT of creativity. They allowed me on board one Friday night, but more on that tomorrow.

Your earliest food memory:
Burning myself at age 5 while trying to make pancakes.

Favorite meal growing up:
Beef stroganoff.

Most undervalued ingredient:

Beer! Many different kinds, with great different flavors.

How did you come up with the Viking theme?
I have been obsessed with Vikings since I was a child. Our high-school mascot was the "Vikings," and my favorite band in the world is Viking metal band AMON AMARTH.

Why sausages and corn dogs?
It's definitely a food that is missing from the Orange County food scene. I have always wanted to do some of my favorite food a little different, and I had never had a bratwurst corn dog until I made one at home. We knew right there and then we had something special.

Who designed your artwork/logo?
The great, very patient team at OCC Signs. Shout out to Michelle; she brought my vision to life.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
OC has some great diverse local ingredients. We have so many different cultures represented, and all of them offer some great ingredients to work with.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
Del Taco: 2 a.m. I get their classic tacos a lot. Whenever they have fish tacos on the menu, I always get that. Their macho combo burrito is also fantastic. For $10, I can get more food than I can ever eat.

What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
Black Phoenix is a chipotle-coffee stout from Bootlegger's Brewery, huge supporters of our truck and very good friends.

Let's talk about that bread pudding.
Born out of necessity, we get our bread locally from Dean with OC Baking. He is a seasoned, cultured friggin' baker. It's baked fresh and has no preservatives in it, so we came up with some great seasonal bread puddings to play with. Our current one is nice and decadent to contrast the cold weather. The Blackheart has peanut butter, chocolate and banana, topped with candied bacon and a lingonberry sauce.

One food you can't live without:
Bacon. It's basically pig candy. Jay from BACON MANia knows what I'm talking about. It goes great in everything. I would brush my teeth with it if I could.

Where was your most recent meal?
Gyu-Kaku in Huntington Beach is some great Japanese barbecue you cook yourself. Guess who gets conned into cooking for everyone. . . . It has the best happy hour around.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Season your food. Try new things; you will surprise yourself. Don't make the same recipe the same way twice.

Do you cook a lot of sausage at home?
I cook a ton of sausage at home -- everything from sausage burgers to sausage tacos. It has an amazing texture that goes well in damn near everything.

What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
People who take photos of every meal they have are just annoying, but I must say, seeing pictures of my grub that pop are inspiring [He did admit later to being hypocritical.].

Favorite chef:
Bobby Flay. Have you seen Throwdown? I would love to have him come out and make a Bobby Flay corn dog. I'm sure he could come up with some awesome stuff. If you're reading this, Bobby, BRING IT! I love his style, which is simple and intricate all at the same time.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
It's hard to say. Most things are not really weird to me. It's fairly common, but octopus still crawling around my face as I tried to eat it was a trip.

Sweet or savory?
I know it's cliché, but you really need both. Gotta have a little sweet with your savory, and definitely a little savory with your sweet. [Coughing] Bacon.

Favorite places to eat (besides your own):
A lot of us truckers are around one another all the time and eat from the other trucks almost 24/7. Dos Chinos (his heart belongs to the Bolsa taco), BACON MANia, Garlic Scapes and Burgermonster are all some of the best food I have ever had off trucks. Beachwood BBQ is some of the best BBQ I've had in my life. The brisket was so, so super tender. Why can't they be open on Mondays?

Please explain to condiment novices the differences between Viking ketchup versus regular.
The Viking Ketchup we have is a buffalo sauce blend with some high-quality ketchup and a few other secret ingredients.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
I eat a ton of eggs. It's a super-versatile ingredient that you can cook many ways and make into many different flavors. I eat them poached, scrambled, sunny-side up, as a quiche, etc. Unless you just burn the hell out of them, it's really hard to screw up eggs. Even if you make it ugly, it still tastes good. I would do more breakfasty foods on the truck if it worked more with what our stuff is.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it):
A drunk lady once asked me to marry her. Unfortunately, we could not accommodate her. Kind of awkward with my girlfriend of almost seven years standing in the truck with me.

What's in your batter? Is there beer?
Our batter took at least 20 different recipes to find the one we really liked. It has a lot of brown sugar in there to give it a fantastic taste, even if eaten plain. As far as beer goes, our batter is the only thing I haven't dumped beer into its recipe . . . yet.

Follow the Viking Truck on Twitter @thevikingtruck

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