Brothers Jeff and Rob Schauf got the idea for The Flying Stove food truck while in California, but decided to take their idea to the streets of their hometown, Wichita, Kan. They made our list of 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2013 at number 96 because of their creative use of ingredients with simple handheld street food items, like their Jamaican braised beef with provolone and red onion marmalade on sourdough. The truck launched in 2011 and serves a changing menu of sandwiches, tacos, and other handhelds to fans lined down the street. We caught up with the brothers to talk about the business, the truck, and most importantly, the food.
When did you launch your truck?
We launched December 2011.
What was the inspiration for going into this business?
A surf trip to Australia in 2006... I was traveling around by myself and began to become homesick for the little things. I noticed that there was hardly any Mexican food and especially not the kind that I had become accustomed to living in Southern California. The seed of the idea to start a little Mexican taco shop on the beach was planted. When I got back to the States to my home in Venice, Calif., a new phenomenon was emerging. The Kogi Truck blew apart the old concept of the food truck/roach coach and the new wave of gourmet food trucks was rolling all over the city, especially in my neighborhood.
Let me back up a little... my brother graduated from culinary school in Austin, Texas, in 2005 and moved out to LA with me. He began his fine dining experience under Govind Armstrong at Table 8 and continued to work under other talented head chefs around LA for the years to follow. After getting a little burned out with the strenuous world of fine dining and watching the food truck movement explode around us, we thought that the food truck would be the perfect medium for the Mexican food idea in Australia. In 2009, my brother and I traveled to Australia for some serious research. We saw great potential there, but unfortunately, the timing was off. The U.S. economy was hurting in a bad way at that time, and we just didn't have the bread to make it happen.... back to the drawing board. Once our minds were open to starting a food truck in a place that didn't really have them, we thought of our hometown of Wichita, Kan. The rest is history.
What's the story behind the origin of your truck's name?
The birthplace of The Flying Stove is Venice, Calif. When I moved there in 2000, I lived with my cousin who, amongst many other things, is a graffiti artist. Where we lived on the beach, there were always people popping over... sometimes for days, sometimes months. One such visitor had just returned from a long road trip in Mexico. He stayed for a good while and this fellow was a great artist in his own right. One afternoon, the collaboration of the two produced the icon of... dunh da da daaaa... a stove. What's the significance of a stove? Besides from a common, easily recognizable image, I'm not sure. I think you would get a different answer depending on who you asked, and what day, and what time of day. Anyway, this stove was adopted by our group of friends and grew to be a banner representing a free way of living and doing what you believe in and living for the moment and expressing yourself as an artist and ultimately, just having fun. The stove became The Stove and it was put up all over the city, in all forms... free hand aerosol, stencils, stickers... by all means necessary. The Stove became its own entity and grew and changed and became an art collective in Albuquerque, N.M., started by the founding members of The Stove. This lasted for a couple years before becoming defunct... but when my brother and me started to think of names, The Stove came back, not to mention that it actually makes sense for our business. The Flying Stove is just the most recent manifestation of The Stove. I'm attaching one of the first Stoves, which is still running to this day.