Working on a food truck together can be the best thing in the world, according to Christopher and Valerie Taylor, who have been married three years, one year longer than they’ve owned Roaming Buffalo.
Roaming Buffalo was among the city’s first batch of food trucks. It serves what the Taylors describe as Buffalo food: burgers, fries and the occasional beef tongue bomber. Launching the business has been a hands-on food experience for the couple, who daily drive the 24-foot truck from their home in Elma. The Taylors – he’s 36 and she’s 25 – have two young sons, Christopher and Camden.
People Talk: How did you meet?
Christopher Taylor: We met at the Delta Sonic on Delaware. I was the detail manager. She was a cashier so I was kind of her boss for a while. Then we both got transferred to the Walden location, where I ended my career. Then we both started working at the same pizzeria.
PT: What was your greatest challenge in launching the Roaming Buffalo?
CT: The City of Buffalo. They didn’t have anything on the books for food trucks. To get our business plan together, we went to Buff State. We didn’t have anything.
PT: What is your biggest cost?
CT: Gas. Every other day we’re putting $80 to $100 in the tank. We got a pretty good truck in Florida but we had a transmission go already. Oil change every three weeks. Maintenance on the generator.
PT: Do objects tend to fall a lot in a kitchen that moves?
CT: There’s a big learning curve in making sure that things don’t fall. The first months were about how to pack things away, what falls and making sure refrigerators are locked.
VT: And that the sanitizer buckets are dumped and put away. I left a bucket on top of the sandwich prep table one time and it dumped.
CT: It cost us $500.
VT: He dumped a whole pot of drunken onions by leaving it on the grill instead of on the flat top.
PT: What are drunken onions?
CT: Sauted onions thrown in a Jacuzzi of beer. Our fries have goat cheese and drunken onions on top.
PT: What is your most challenging regulated business behavior?
VT: Finding a legal parking spot where we can spend time. It’s a 24-foot truck.
PT: What’s it like parallel parking?
VT: I’ve only driven the truck probably five times. I don’t drive it when he’s in there – period. I can run the truck with another person. He doesn’t have to be there, but we’re at a point – and I’ve seen this happen – where food service has gone down if the owners are not on board.
CT: We don’t ever want somebody else running the truck.
PT: What happens if you guys are fighting?
VT: It happens a lot. I’ve learned over the years to bite my tongue, but I have strong opinions. He wants the rolls in the exact same place every day.
CT: She has no restaurant background whatsoever. It’s all about systems. In the two years we’ve been operating, we’ve had a handful of complaints. It’s her customer service and my systems. It has to be done the exact same way over and over.
PT: How did you find your food niche?
CT: It’s crazy in Buffalo. Food critics keep saying we’re not creative enough, but I started doing pork belly and cow’s tongue, and people give me the look. They’re not ready for that. Beef tongue thinly sliced is the best piece of meat I’ve had in my life. It’s easy to cook, easy to prepare. And it’s high in iron.
PT: That’s pretty adventurous of you to put your tongue out.
CT: People don’t like it yet. Once you get over the fact you’re eating tongue you’ll eat it every day. We boil it in beer for 6 to 8 hours and then peel it. I smoke it and slice it thinly and throw it on the flat top. It melts in your mouth.
PT: Do you see yourself opening a restaurant?
CT: We have another truck ordered. We were thinking about doing a restaurant but …
VT: I would prefer it but he doesn’t want to.
CT: I’d rather go to the people. You pick a bad location for a restaurant and you’re stuck. Our whole plan is to have three trucks: one up here, one down south in North Carolina and one in Tampa Bay.
PT: Do you watch food shows a lot?
VT: That’s all we ever watch.
PT: When did you discover you could cook?
VT: We used to have all these parties at the house and the more we drank the more we were hungry. Chris would cook all the time. One of the first burgers we started was the Hard-Charging Stampede Burger. Everyone inhaled them. I don’t cook at all.
PT: Tell me about creative use of space on the truck.
VT: When we go camping, I’m the one packing the car. On the truck I organize the refrigerator according to sauces, the dough for the Buffalo balls. I’m so aggravated when he comes home from Restaurant Depot and everything is just shoved in the freezer.
PT: Do you have an established route?
CT: The only place we go to religiously is Roswell Park on Wednesdays. They’re the nicest people of the week.
PT: What’s your record service?
VT: With a maximum staff of five, we can pound out 100 burgers in an hour. That’s flying.
CT: We did 5,000 people with another food truck at the Tragically Hip concert in Canada. The only thing we had left was Lake Effect Ice Cream and fried bologna sandwiches.
PT: Who’s the creative one?
CT: I am, but we have a vegetarian on the truck who comes up with all these crazy ideas like hot potato fries. They’re sweet fries with our sriracha. I was influenced by my mom. She would make really bland food for my dad so I would take her recipes and jazz them up. She taught me the basics.
VT: They were always pulling Gramma’s recipe cards out of the closet.
CT: And then there was tail-gating. The key is local ingredients. Whatever tastes good. I’m a fat guy. If it doesn’t taste good I’m not going to serve it.
PT: What do you do for fun?
VT: Go to a bar.
CT: I don’t think we’ve been on a date in a while because we usually take the kids. We sponsor race cars, three at Lancaster and one at Holland. We haven’t been to a concert forever, except Guns N’ Roses.
PT: What song did you dance to at your wedding?
VT: Guns N’ Roses “Patience.”