Fueled by the power of social media and foodies craving delicious bites and community connections, the food truck craze started in Los Angeles several years ago with chef Roy Choi and his Kogi food truck’s perfect fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisines.
That started a food truck trend that continues to transform the American food scene. And the food truck craze is meeting enthusiastic gourmands even in Paris, London and Rome.
And if a new truck rolling into its next destination in L.A. as its way, that scene just got elevated with the debut of a food truck from one of the world’s top luxury hotels.
I told some of my colleagues and friends who helped start the food truck craze in Southern California that I was going to the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons hotel at the top of Rodeo Drive. Their reaction: a lot of head-scratching and raised eyebrows.
“The Four Seasons has a food truck?”
It’s pure brilliance.
For a hospitality brand that epitomizes sophistication and luxury, the FS Taste Truck — as it’s called — literally provides a perfect vehicle to amplify its brand presence among local food hipsters and tech-savvy professionals who prefer sharing new authentic flavors over stuffy multiple-course dinning.
“Americans are by their nature highly aspirational,” Beverly Wilshire Public Relations Director Carrie Mitchell told me during a preview of the new food truck’s menu. “And that’s what the Four Seasons Taste Truck is all about – being aspirational but accessible to all.”
Mitchell is proud to help delight guests with the Four Season’s savvy use of social media. The hotel’s general manager, executive chefs and even servers are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites. It’s another tool to engage with existing and potential guests as well as with the community at large.
And it makes sense because the historic Beverly Wilshire has been an integral part of the Beverly Hills community for decades.
Branded with a clean retro graphic design, the FS Taste Truck started its 1,000-mile tour across eight cities and three states with the first visit to where else by the epicenter of technology and social media – Palo Alto, the home of Facebook and its more than 1 billion users across the planet.
It’s a hit judging from the reaction from Instagram photos and videos from the truck’s other culinary stops in San Francisco and Santa Barbara.
Each city tour affords an opportunity for the local Four Seasons culinary team to display its cooking chops — but on a food truck.
These world-renown Four Seasons chefs are used to large spaces and the best kitchens, but it’s a completely different environment confined to the limits of a truck.
Beverly Wilshire Hotel’s THE BLVD Restaurant Chef Claudia Fossa tells me she and her team have been practicing for those limitations. But chef Fossa says she’s excited for the vast opportunities to connect with community in neighborhoods across the Southland.
And judging from chef Fossa’s creations that I sampled at THE BLVD restaurant steps away from well-healed Roadeo Drive, I’m confident even the most jaded Angelenos will be delighted.
That’s a tall task, especially for Southern Californians who have already experienced the best cuisines of the world thanks to the large immigrant communities sharing their authentic flavors.
Pairing the deep bench of expertise among the Beverly Wilshire’s culinary team is a winning combination for even discerning street foodies.
French-born Thomas Krooswijk, the Beverly Wilshire’s food and beverage director, huddled in planning sessions with Executive Chef Gilles Arzur who hails from a small village on the French coast and Peruvian native Fossa who recently came from a stint at Four Seasons Punta Mita, a beachside luxury resort on the Mexican Riviera where I immersed myself in culinary bliss in August.
Rather than try to force a food truck experience, it organically happened on its own during the brainstorming sessions. And it’s largely due to chef Fossa’s cultural heritage that I think is the pure genius behind Beverly Wilshire team’s interpretation of food truck cuisine.
I sampled Peruvian anticuchos of grilled beef and octopus on skewers.
Dating back to the 16th century, anticuchos are traditional dishes of humble cuts of meats that have been marinated in vinegar and indigenous spices such as cumin and aji pepper and now garlic thanks to invaders to the New World from Europe. These bite-sized meats are then grilled to perfection on food carts and served from small food stalls throughout Peru and neighboring countries.
These delectable morsels were savored by the Spanish conquistadors who enjoyed after making their way to Peru. Now, anticuchos are even more wildly popular not only in Peru but throughout South America.
I was looking forward to trying out Chef Fossa’s interpretation of “anticuchos de corazon” or skewers of beef hearts. But instead sampled the tamer Peruvian beef skewers with a vibrant yellow creamy sauce called “huancaina.”
The beef was perfectly grilled and was still succulent with hints of garlic even after almost 30 minutes of taking photos and video-tapping the gorgeous dish.
The traditional Peruvian favorite “papas a la huancaina” or yellow and purple potatoes with its velvety and spicy flavor from “aji amarillo” yellow peppers provided the perfect counter balance to the juicy beef flavors.
I also sampled on “pulpo con al olivo” or fire-grilled octopus with an olive aioli sauce. I had high expectations for the grilled octopus as I experienced the best seafood in Punta Mita.
I wasn’t disappointed. Though this dish may intimidate many, Chef Fossa knows how to treat this delicate dish that quickly can get rubbery if not prepared properly.
This octopus dish was hands down my favorite. It was tender, moist and bursting with flavor. The black olive sauce brought an exquisite briny Mediterranean flavor that helped round out the seafood presentation.
For dessert, I had California’s answer to the “cronut” pastry trend that started by a Frenchman in New York City who combined the traditional French croissant with the American working people’s donut.
The Beverly Wilshire’s latest salvo in the pastry battle for culinary conquest – the aptly named “Rodeo Cronet.” Think of a melding of a croissant with a beignet.
I enjoyed the flakiness of the pastry that’s only mildly sweet but became even more indulgent with the milk chocolate chantilly. It’s similar to a chocolate ganache but lighter in texture.
Other menu items on the FS Taste Truck for the Beverly Wilshire include:
- Chicken morsel anticuchos with aji huancahina
- Beef hearts anticuchos with aji huancahina
- Ahi tuna anticuchos with scallions and a chimichurri sauce
- Steak and carrots cromesquis (Minced steak and vegetables similar to a deep-fried croquette)
- Grilled sirloin steak salad with kale, swiss chard, red rice, English peas on a ponzu and soy vinaigrette
- Grilled salmon salad with market-fresh fruits and vegetables with bleu cheese, mint and a rasberry vinaigrette
The FS Taste Truck’s mission of community outreach and involvement doesn’t end with just good food and fun times. The program also is helping with a serious national issue of hunger in America.
The Four Season’s work caught my attention after I was invited to participate with the #NoKidHungry campaign which is sponsored by the Food Network.
Thanks to other Twitter users who believe in using social media for social good, we far exceeded the goal of reaching 16 million different people on Twitter to publicize that 16 million children in America go hungry every day and to raise much-needed funds for food programs for youths.
After the food tour concludes mid-November in New Mexico, organizers of the FS Taste Truck will tally their total sales and donate a portion of the proceeds to Chefs to End Hunger.
And the giving continues with October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Four Seasons’ second annual Think Pink program will donate proceeds of special cocktails, delicious deserts and mani-pedi treatments to benefit the Women’s Cancer Research Fund.
October is indeed the perfect time to eat, drink and think pink with the team of the Four Seasons utilizing its creativity as a force to share high-quality experiences and to help make a difference for good.
Social media users may follow the latest news from the FS Taste Truck with the hashtag of #FSTasteTruck on Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites.
Know Before You Go
Beverly Wilshire’s FS Taste Truck stops in downtown L.A. Art Walk on Oct. 10 and the Beverly Hills Farmers Market on Oct. 13.
Four Season’s Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills’ FS Taste Truck stops at Sony Studios on Oct. 14, the Pacific Design Center on Oct. 15 and the Red Bull headquarters in Santa Monica on Oct. 16.