Sometimes you just happen into a place that feels like home. For Jason and I this is a place where food takes us back to memories. You are in the chef’s head. Inception but with restaurants on every dream layer. We eat their food and feel like we are in the their mind tasting it together. This is the flavor you get at Crossroads Farm to Truck. When eating Danielle and Wayne’s quinoa laab we felt like we were in Thailand with them, laughing and licking spices from our lips. The husband and wife team have a combined experience of more than twenty years and spent those years traveling and tasting the world. Their dishes have layers of flavors and texture that are balanced with talent.
Crossroads will be doing a chef collaboration with Parkside tomorrow, Sunday the 16th.
Check it out and buy tickets here:
Q&A with the chefs and owners of Crossroads:
Listen to these flavor masters on Soundcloud:
What is your experience as a chef?
Wayne: I started in North Carolina. This was my plan Z. I just fell into horticulture and it didn’t suck. So I went into it. I went to the highest restaurant I could. I started off at the bottom and worked my way to the top. I realized there was nothing there to move up to, and moved to Portland. Moved from East coast to West coast to get a completely different feel. What better way to learn then to do something completely unlike what you have ever done before?’
We wanted to show Austin that dish, and bring vegetarians together with it.
We met at Blue Hour. The chef there would stock his chefs and have the chefs compete. Every hot line chef was competing for sous chef and then we all had to do tastings.” Wayne wound up being a better fit for a sister restaurant, and the two got to separate their work life from their relationship, which was a relief. “Then we went to Thailand for three months. Our laab dish is based on it. It’s our favorite dish. There they take raw pork and take a mallet it. They cut it into little shreds, and emulsify it by hitting it over and over with a knife. They just keep smashing it and mix blood into it. They don’t cook it. Just completely raw. Comes with mint and chilies and lime juice. You have to have a strong stomach. Our host family warned us not to eat it. Then they cooked it for us. We took it and made our quinoa laab, and this was how we wanted to show Austin that dish, and bring vegetarians together with it.”
I begged to be on the line and the chef finally said fine, like, I want to watch you fail.
Unlike Wayne I always wanted to be a chef. Ever since I was a kid. My brother had a Creepy Crawler that I loved. The easy bake oven sucked but I loved the Creepy Crawler. I went on co-op my junior year so I basically stopped school, and I’ve been doing this for fifteen years since I started so early. I got my first big kid job in downtown Boston. It was a culture shock to come to Boston; being a little kid and downtown. I begged to be on the line and the chef finally said fine, like, I want to watch you fail. I remember just crushing it. It was just pizza and hot sandwiches, but it was awesome. The guys were watching and I just felt like I was giving the finger. You don’t want to be a line cook forever but at that age all I wanted was to be a line cook. I wanted to cook with the guys.
When they push you have to push back. But not like a girl, like a guy.
Danielle, how do you see girls in this industry?
Danielle walks around like a line cook. She has that presence. “You have to present yourself that way. We are already shy on girls in this industry. Like girls in this industry already have a bad rap. They all want to be taken seriously but at the same time they all want to sleep with the chef. I want to see more girls rocking it, and proving why we deserve to be there. This is why we don’t see more girls. When they push you have to push back. But not like a girl, like a guy.”
Do you think it will change?
“No. Maybe. Well in this town there’s a lot of girl chefs. We saved up our tips and went to Uchi and there were a lot of girl chefs. At Odd Duck too. Those places take a lot more risks in hiring girls. In reality they just tend to be emotionally weaker, and have a lot of cattiness”.
After college Danielle went to Australia and then bounced around. She says that traveling is how you learn and meet people. Together Danielle and Wayne went through WWOOF and did organic farming abroad. In exchange for your work they house and feed you for free.
What are some struggles that come with working together?
Well we think about it all the time. It feels really important and we’ll try to stop talking about it, but it consumes you. It feels like you’ll lose that really important thought. Sometimes we forget why we love it and get burnt out. There are days you show up and don’t want to be there. It doesn’t last very long but you have to remind yourself why, and to not be a slave to yourself. It isn’t about just us. It’s about the customers.
We want to do dinners at farms and collaborate. We can take our kitchen there. Then we can show more of our fine dining skills. Our menu here at the truck is all over the board. We are trying to show people a little more about the world then I don’t know…fried chicken. We are all over the board, but those are our memories. If you look at the menu you see food from everywhere. We think we’ve covered everywhere. We source with the seasons, and use them for our seasonal dishes. We do seasonal dishes because we want to use melons, and have people taste them, but not make them permanent since they go out of season.
We are waiting for really great feedback. One day someone is going to have a really great thing, and it will become the thing everyone comes here for.
What’s it like to run the truck with just the two of you?
Well after this he’s going home to break down chickens. It’s difficult to make sure you are up on prep. We are pretty good at foresight, and thinking that even though we aren’t needing this now we’ll need it later. We are getting a hard grasp on teaching people about the truck. We are basically a restaurant out of a truck. We need a staple item. When people think of going out they think of going out for really great tacos or burgers, but not going to the place where they don’t know what you will have. We are waiting. It is hard for us to pick that main dish now. The one people come back for over and over. Addiction spilling from their tongue for it. We are waiting for really great feedback. One day someone is going to have a really great thing, and it will become the thing everyone comes here for.
Jason and I think it will be the hand pies. A peach one that makes you remember the first time you bit into a peach from Fredericksburg, tasting the sun. It is warm, rich from baking, a pie that melts in your mouth and makes you a kid again.
What’s it been like to source with the farms here?
In Portland, chicken on the high end was $3.50. It was $3 for really well farmed pork belly there and $8.50 here, and it is way more farm based in Portland. It’s really difficult for people like us who really want to do the right thing, but have to source at much higher prices.
Do you think it’s because farm to fork is more of a hashtag in Austin?
“Yes. It’s a lifestyle in Portland, and here it is a trend. And it’s a really terrible thing to say but they are kind of ripping us of.” Jason and I have heard this a lot. “We’ve actually had to boycott a few farmers who are basically stealing. When we started we used Richardson farms. We bought a half a chicken and a pork belly and it was $117, and that was the friend price. That’s seriously just stealing. You might as well just buy a farm.
That is why the prices are so high, and most people don’t understand that.
There were two guys that came here with $5 and couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t buy anything.”
What have you been doing with social media?
How is twitter going? “It’s the twits. It feels like everyone uses it now. So it’s like what you had to say, and then all this other shit. It’s so dead for this part of the industry.”
…”After Thailand and LA we were figuring out our next move and living in a car. We found investors in Austin and saw this as a place that is getting behind the farm to fork movement”.
What’s the biggest issue you face?
Our biggest issue is getting our concept out to Austin. For even the small things it’s $500 in ads. Do512 wanted to work with us and it was like $1200. That’s more than my rent. We want to do a pop up and get our truck out there. We want to go to the farm and show them that this is what they are eating. A problem we face is having enough time. Sunday we have to close all day because we are doing a chef series with Parkside, and all we are getting is publicity. It’s a give and take. We have to close but we get our name out there.
In other places chefs are always wanting to check out what each other are doing, and get excited about it. Here people are like, no.
What was it like when you first came to Austin?
In this town it is all about connections. Even getting jobs in this town it was like the amount of experience we had didn’t matter. We were given so many offers in LA and then come here and could only get $10.50 to $11 an hour.
In other places people are always wanting to check out what each other is doing and get excited about it. Here people are like, no.
What are random dishes you’ve made?
I once did pumpkin spice chicken wings in LA. They sold so well. We get so excited going to the markets and getting something new on the menu. We’re like yes, we get to eat! We’ll know we have a budget but can’t help but spend that $50 on a new idea.
Danielle and Wayne are taking their passion and giving it to you. They sacrificed everything for a food truck that they believe in. Maybe it will be around in five years and maybe it won’t. Either way this will part of an epic journey. Go taste it.