DENNIS FROM EL TORO ROJO SHARED THE MOST EXCITING FACTS ABOUT HIS FAMILY BUSINESS THAT HE RUNS WITH HIS FATHER. THEIR MEXICAN FOOD TRUCK IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE NYC FOOD TRUCK SCENE. DENNIS AND HIS FATHER PAY INCREDIBLE ATTENTION TO THEIR PRODUCT AND MAKE SURE THEY DELIVER THE BEST FOOD TO THEIR CUSTOMERS. THE STORY BEHIND EL TORO ROJO IS WORTH READING!
NYFTA: When did you first get an idea to open a food truck?
Dennis: It was in 2015; I brought my father to watch the movie “Chef” in a theater which was about a father and son opening up a food truck.
NYFTA: What made you think of opening a Mexican food truck?
Dennis: My father learned how to cook Mexican food from my mother’s mom old recipes from her home town, and his passion for cooking grew after he had my little sister and me. His first job in New York was at a supermarket’s produce department. He was intrigued by the freshness of all the products that he was purchasing for the supermarket. He practiced his cooking skills by cooking meals for us on his days off. He then realized he enjoyed cooking and had a good “Sazon” as well. However, he continued to work in the produce purchasing. I always told my dad that he should become a chef. One day I asked him why don’t we open a food truck and turn his hobby into a business project. SO WE DID!
NYFTA: How long have you had the truck?
Dennis: Since the winter of 2016, little over two years now.
NYFTA: Were there any significant obstacles along the way that you had to overcome?
Dennis: Yes, operations (staffing, parking locations, production) and especially working together with my father; old school vs. new school!
NYFTA: What is your typical working day?
Dennis: My day (as I work full time on the truck):
6am – Load truck, set up and heat
8:30am – Drive out and compete for parking
9:30am – Park
11:00am – 3:00pm Open for service
On productions days, I usually go to Restaurant Depot to purchase products and paper products then stay with production till 6pm to quality test the recipes.
NYFTA: How did you put your menu together?
Dennis: It was a complicated process. My father wanted to put too many items on the menu, just like a restaurant, but I didn’t agree. It would be too difficult to cook everything on the truck. We had to eliminate items as we tested them.
NYFTA: How often do you change/add items to the menu?
Dennis: We haven’t changed our menu items in about one year, but we do add seasonal items like Jumbo grilled shrimp or Beer battered fried cod in the summer. We also have a board with specials. That’s how we expose our clientele to different Mexican food.
NYFTA: How did you test the menu? Friends? Family?
Dennis: First, it was friends and family, but we used Long Island City as a test site to work out the kinks and operational issues. We make changes based on the feedback. We stayed in LIC for about 2-3 months.
NYFTA: What do you think makes your menu items better than others?
Dennis: The freshness of our product for sure! You would be amazed by how many items other trucks use that come from a box or might just be frozen. We purchase fresh produce to make our seasoning, marinade, and salsas. We also import our dried chilies from Mexico. When avocado or any other ingredient’s market price is high, we don’t compromise on any product or quality (even if the business takes a small hit).
Food trucks have a unique challenge when it comes to permits and licenses. Everything from food safety to where you can park is regulated at the federal, state, and county levels.
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