Roadstoves: A Call for Civility Among Food Trucks
Benjamin Simpson Josh Hiller takes food trucks seriously.
The fryers, grills and steam tables are turned off, but the insides of the food trucks stored in the parking lot of Josh Hiller's business are greenhouse-hot. Most have, on the ceiling, a small blue window that tilts open, but they clearly aren't big enough to cool down an operating food truck. On a hot summer day in the Valley, the interiors of these mobile kitchens can climb to 130, 140 degrees.
That's plenty hot, but perhaps not as heated as the relationship between Hiller and some of his competitors. More than anything, it's a culture clash.
If, as Hiller says, Kogi is to food trucks as Jesus is to Christians, then Roadstoves is the manger.
Hiller and business partner Morris Appel run Roadstoves, a full-service operation catering to food trucks. Roadstoves provides parking for food trucks, a repair shop and a commissary. It also serves as strategic planner, logistics handler, outfitter and concept designer to many of L.A.'s best-regarded food trucks. That includes Kogi, of course, as well as the Grilled Cheese Truck, Cart for a Cause, Baby's Badass Burgers and the Sweets Truck. The lot has room for about 90 trucks, and every slot is full.
Before the relatively recent renaissance of the mobile food business, humble roach coaches had roamed the town for decades.
The food has taken a big step up in recent years, but Hiller believes food truck etiquette has gotten worse.
Hiller is something of a zealot on this point, and he often finds himself swimming against the tide. For starters, he believes businesses like Roadstoves should provide more than a parking space. They also should help food truck operators understand the etiquette and history involved.
"It's like the NBA," Hiller explains. "You can go to a park and play because there's a hoop and rim, but it's not really what the NBA does. We created the marketing, the branding, we talk to everyone that comes in and we try to educate them about the streets. It's really a more fully absorbed passion of ours, versus just, 'Give us a couple bucks, go out and take a truck.'"
The educational part of Roadstoves' mission is bolstered by more than 20 years of experience in sending catering trucks out on the streets of L.A.
"The other lot owners, they don't care: 'Do whatever you want, you're paying our rent.' That's seeing half the picture."