It's my seventh day on the job at the Currywurst LA truck, and I'm just about to get in over my head when I hear the passenger-side door slam open.
“If that line gets any longer, I’m going to burn your truck down,” says a cavalier English voice. Jean Paul Epstein, the owner of the neighboring food truck Cod Save the Queen, is ditching his own team to help me get out of the weeds. Within moments, he’s dumping fries on everything and messily arranging each order on a stack of three or four paper plates. Leaning out of the window, he yells something like, “I have an order of chips here. GABRIEL! Your chips, love — and a bratwurst.”
You are a true Angeleno if this scene doesn’t seem weird to you: Of course the German food truck has a Chinese American manager. And why wouldn’t there be an Englishman handing out bratwurst? Ethno-culinary blending is the very soul of Los Angeles — and a craze that a Korean taco truck made famous.
This is why the Cali Banh Mi truck didn’t jar me for a second. Travis, its owner and one of our truck’s most dedicated friends, buys his baguettes from Alhambra’s Banh Mi Che Cali and shops his produce from Shun Fat in Monterey Park. They grill their steaks, julienne their vegetables and, in my humble opinion, in a toe-to-toe standoff between Cali Banh Mi and Banh Mi Che Cali, the truck wins every time. The fact that Travis and his staff are all tall, good-looking white folk has never been an issue.
Despite being Germany's favorite streetfood, most days are slow at LA’s Currywurst Truck. We don’t have a recognizable brand, or a highly active pool of Twitter devotees, or even a product that most Americans are comfortable with. As such, the only two reasonable perspectives we have when preparing for the day are delusional optimism and maudlin pessimism. (This may explain why most food trucks blast 80s music.)
As with volcanoes, hurricanes or earthquakes, your chances at success and survival are directly tied to location. And even if you find the perfect spot to set-up, you might watch your day’s profits melt away in lugubrious slow motion as the Grilled Cheese Truck rolls to a stop right next to you; the driver blissfully aware that he’s just seriously wrecked your day.
But this morning, I see a face—propped up by 10 finger tips—bobbing left and right at the order window; scanning the inside of my truck for someone to sell them something. Scanning for me.
Then I see another face right behind him. And another face behind her. Now there’s a line.
Josh (Currywurst Truck LA’s other manager) and I have worked 14 hours, back-to-back; our nerves shot and eyes raw. Josh has just noticed the line which has crept up on us and in a moment of exhaustion, clarity and righteous optimism, we nod our tired heads in unison. Spontaneously, simultaneously, sublimely we yell-sing, “HIIIIIIIGHWAAAAY TOOOOOOO THE DAYN-GER-ZOHNE!”