Interview with LA's Word of Mouth Vegan Food Truck
If you're vegan in Los Angeles right now, chances are you've heard of the new vegan food truck in town, Word of Mouth. They only started hitting the streets of LA last month and already they've got a huge following. It's easy to see why though—with a menu full of crave-able, distinctive vegan dishes like onion-ring-topped cheeseburgers, a Chick'n sandwich build around a thick fried cauliflower steak, and fried mac + cheese bites and some solid, fun branding on the truck, they've hard to miss and easy to love. We thought we'd get the low-down on the origins of the truck, so we talked recently with the couple behind it, Chris + Staci (pictured above, left-most, with Staci's sister to the right).
Troy: Alright, first off, introduce yourselves—who are the masterminds behind Word of Mouth?
Chris: Hi! We are Chris Chavez and Staci Stewart, the duo behind Word Of Mouth Truck.
So where did the idea for starting up a vegan food truck come from int he first place?
Staci: As vegans, we were tired of attending events around Los Angeles where we couldn't find any viable options to eat. As a Chef, Chris explained to me how rare it is to find a restaurant that does not cross-contaminate, which always left us feeling uncertain. We knew we couldn't be the only hungry vegans at these events and wanted to change that! This is what sprouted the seed of bringing veganism to the streets.
Well, I think it's safe to say the vegans (and non-vegans) of Los Angeles thank you for doing so. Why a truck though? Why not a brick-and-mortar?
Staci: We love the idea of spreading the word of good food while promoting a vegan lifestyle. We believe that getting out to different areas in the city helps to start a dialogue with people who may have not be open to the idea of going out of there way to experience plant-based food. We would also love to grow into a brick-and-mortar in the future!
For those of us not versed all the work that goes into what you have to do to start up a food truck and get square with the city on regulations, can you give us a brief run-down of all the work that went into it?
Chris: How much time do you have‽ Honestly, we are still learning and we are less than a month old. The birth of Word Of Mouth Truck has been over a year!
Yeah, I can only imagine it's a ton of work. Moving to your menu, I seriously had no idea that the Chick'n Sandwich (pictured below, Buffalo-style) was a fried cauliflower steak when I first had it—what's the secret in making that so awesome?
Staci: We are so happy you like it! That is our favorite menu item and I seriously eat it everyday!! I would say what makes it so awesome is our unique batter. The blend of herbs and spices really bring out a resemblance of "chick'n" while not being a heavy processed faux meat.
Yeah, it's seriously crave-worthy. Speaking of batters and the like, how do you get the outer part of the Mac + Cheese Bites (below) so crispy and keeping the inside so creamy + gooey?
Staci: I'll let the chef answer this one...
Chris: We make a cashew creme that we incorporate into the dish that helps it achieve the creamy/gooey consistency.
Well, highest compliments to the chef. I think you menu's been pretty static since you started up a few weeks back—do you all plan to keep it that way or add new items as you go?
Chris: At the moment the menu is pretty set. We do change up the sweets regularly and we definitely want to incorporate specials in the future.
Anything you can tell us that we can look forward to?
Staci: We are also constantly challenging ourselves to create unique meals using whole foods instead of the processed faux meats on the market. You can always keep an eye out for new creations on our social media (Instagram /Twitter/Facebook)
Can do and will continue to do. So, how has it been going into business together? Do you all work well together? Does one person handle one thing and the other, other things?
Staci: Going into business together has been great, because we are a couple we compliment each other well in different areas. Chris's background as a chef plays a huge role in the menu and day to day kitchen operations, while my acting background helps me when interacting with people daily, and keeping up with our social media. Its also nice to have a significant other who knows how hard you work and ultimately is working for the same goal.
That's a great way to put it—Katie and I definitely do treat things in a very similar manner with our creative agency and with MooShoes, but it's hard not to take great working/living relationships for granted sometimes. Are you two native Angelenos?
Chris: No, we are both from Columbus Ohio. We moved to Los Angeles in 2009 as an aspiring actor and chef, respectively.
How you did you meet?
Staci: Chris is a really awesome skateboarder and I was in the mist of learning how to skate. We met through friends but I think our first interaction was after I ate it on a half pipe. He came over to see if I was okay.
Aw. And I'm kind of assuming you're both vegan—when did you each go vegan? And do you remember when you made the decision? Like, what led to it or caused that shift in thinking?
Staci: Yes, we are both vegans. I remember when I decided to go vegan, from being a vegetarian. My sister and I started a plant-based diet together, so we could hold each other accountable and talk about the favorite products we found. I remember researching about animal testing and started to buy all cruelty-free products. I lost weight. People took notice and wanted to know what my secret was. I told them to "Go Vegan!" Chris went vegan last year but, prior to that, he had eaten a lot of vegan meals during our relationship.
Chris: I was inspired by Staci. Whether it is going with her to protest the circus or fur-free Friday, her compassion for animals is electric. Also, after visiting Farm Sanctuary and meeting the animals, they reminded me so much of our two dogs and cat that I couldn't help but to reflect. I didn't want to contribute to anymore suffering. Thats when I gave it up for good.
Yeah, it's hard not to be truly affected by these things once you start earnestly thinking about them. Years back, when we re-branded Farm Sanctuary, in fact, we had a similar experience of their message and work re-envigorating us and aligning our paths more. You guys seem to have been going full throttle since you started, popping up all over the city, multiple times and places in the same day sometimes. I know you're in the grind phase where you're working hard to get your name out there right now and you're doing great, but do you all ever get a second off?
Staci: It seems like there is never enough time in the day! We are a small operation at the moment, so we wear many hats. Sundays are usually our day off, unless we have an event. We enjoy spending time with our animals: Poochie, Luna, and Wizard, watching movies, working out, acting, and online gaming with friends.
Any bit of advice for anyone hoping to start up a truck or restaurant in Los Angeles?
Staci: DO IT! Keep in mind It takes a lot of research, hard work, and long hours but it's worth it. Being proud of something you created is an incredible accomplishment. A motto I like to use is: 'You never know unless you try.' So dream big and go for it!
Nice. Do you all have long-term or bigger picture goals for the truck?
Staci: Of course we can't wait to expand our reach throughout LA! We are really excited to share our passion with the community and look forward to where that takes us.
That's great to hear. Design hat back on here: We totally love your branding and design—who did that?
Staci: Thank you so much!
Chris: Staci had a great vision of the brand we wanted to create. I'm really proud of her creativity and how she continues to think outside the box for all the small details tying everything together.
Yeah, it so shows when care and a lot of thought is behind an element like the branding and presentation. And the name—where did it come from? What's the origin story?
Staci: We were brainstorming ideas together... had a memory of a business my grandparents started 'Take a Look.' It was a classic car dealership and I always loved the name. Then Word of Mouth naturally just flowed from that, so I owe them a big thank you!
I know you often don't know where you're going to be until day of, but any events you're doing coming up or scheduled stops that you can tell people about now?
Chris: We will be at Vegan Street Fair in March. You can always check out Instagram daily for where we will be @wordofmouthtruck. And if anyone is interested in having us at their event you can e-mail us.
Awesome. Thanks again for talking!
Staci: Thank you so much for your support!
Chris: Thank You!