Coming up on Saturday, August 2, the Big Bite Bacon Fest that will be held on the Queen Mary in Long Beach will provide hungry FOB's (Fans of Bacon) with a dazzling array of bacon based foods and treats. In an exclusive interview today for the Examiner, Rick Garcia, Chef/Owner of the Dia de los Puercos Grub Truck, talked about bacon, his truck and what he has planned for the Big Bite Bacon Fest. “I'm excited for it, I think it's a perfect venue, especially with the weather that we are having recently. I think it's a great venue and a great city to have it in. Los Angeles has been waiting for something this size to have for bacon. They have had the L.A. Bacon Fest, which we've done at the Peterson Automotive Museum in February, but it's nowhere near the size of the Big Bite Bacon Fest that Absolute Events is doing for the Queen Mary”, Rick said.
Rick is an old hand at the food business, but a newcomer to the food truck business. Growing up in East Los Angeles, he learned to cook Mexican dishes from his grandmother. “Growing up, I was raised by my grandmother. She worked as a school cafeteria manager for LA Unified for 36 years. It's kind of funny, my grandmother would get so frustrated with the school meals that she had to prepare which came in little foil tins in that era that she couldn't wait to get home and cook dinner for us”.
Rick added, “On the weekends, it was great to wake up on Saturday and Sunday mornings to the smell of handmade flour tortillas, menudo, pozole. We would sit there and make tamales during the Christmas season. Just the different types of dishes and watching her go and as I grew up, I just started asking questions, helping out and going with her to buy the nixtimal, which is the corn to make the masa and watch her as she ground everything down for the chili. It was an art form to watch her work”.
These days, his grandmother is getting older and not able to cook the way she used to. Rick continued, “Later on in my life the memory of all those things was motivational to me, to cook things the right way, to take pride and love what I'm doing. Later on, after she retired, she just kept going, but unfortunately now, she is aging and her palate is not the same. She's got arthritis so she can't do a lot of the things she used to do, so I try to get over there and cook for her as often as I can. Just to see her enjoying the food gives me, I can't even explain the feeling, to watch her enjoy my food now".
Rick later went to the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, eventually becoming Executive Chef for Hilton Doubletree and Embassy Suites. He described the transition he made in his life from that, saying, “Much like my grandmother, I became frustrated with the restrictions and my ability to be passionate about food. Unfortunately, everything came pre-cooked and frozen. There was no sense of pride in that. It was a cushy job, it paid well, but after talking to my wife and her seeing how unhappy I was, we just said 'let's do the truck'. So I left my position and here I am today!”. With the Dia de los Puercos Grub Truck, Rick can now share his passion for pork and the street foods of Mexico with people from across the Southland.
“I think when people have come up to the truck, we did our coming out for the food truck was at the L.A. Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl on June 28 and we served about 3,000 people", Rick said. "It's been exactly one month since yesterday that we've been established as a food truck and it's been moving very fast. Faster than I had anticipated, but not faster than I had hoped for. This is my wildest dream, to be a business owner and do what I love to do at my discretion, be creative and have a wonderful foundation on the truck which is my wife, my sister and my good friend Frank”.
The Dia de los Puercos Grub Truck is dedicated to pork. Of course, that means bacon too, made from the toothsome pork belly. Rick said, “Bacon is it's own food group as far as I'm concerned. It's just an awesome cut of meat”. His truck made an appearance at the San Diego Big Bite Bacon Festearlier this month, creating quite a following with his Hog Pockets. Rick explained that “At the Bacon Fest in San Diego, we served our Hog Pockets, it's our version of a Hot Pocket”,
Rick continued, “We've got peanut butter and grape jelly, stuff the empanada shell with applewood bacon and then we batter it in a sweet batter, we fry it up and then we roll it in chulo sugar, which is granulated sugar and cinnamon and then we garnish it with lechera, which is sweetened condensed milk and more applewood bacon bits. We're going to do the tinga tostis and the hog pockets at the Queen Mary”.
The tinga tostis is a specialty of the Dia de los Puercos (Day of Pigs) Grub Truck. Rick described what it is, saying, “We also have pork tinga style, which is originally from the D.F., which is the heart of Mexico. Depending on which part of Mexico you are coming from, it is prepared differently, so there's pork tinga and chicken tinga. It's usually made with potatoes and chipotle and cumin, but we do it a little differently, we do a shredded pork, we take the potatoes out and we cook it with chorizo, chipotle and some garlic and we serve it on our little tostis”.
At the L.A. Street Food Fest, the tinga tostis was a smashing success. According to Rick, “We did the tinga tostis, people were asking where would we be and we said that they could follow us on Twitter and that our next big event was the Big Bite Bacon Fest. People who didn't know about it were just like 'OMG, I've got to get tickets!' so we told them they better get them fast because they're going to sell out. I think The Queen Mary's a great venue and Long Beach is a great city to have it in”. Rick developed quite a following from the L.A. Street Fair, as well as other events the truck has participated at in the area. Currently, he is based in Los Angeles, but will be adding a second truck within a few weeks to help cover demand in the San Gabriel Valley as well as San Bernardino, San Diego and Orange County.
On the Dia de los Puercos Grub Truck, another popular item is the Borracho Dog. Rick described it, noting that “there's different uses for bacon. I like to use it to wrap a hot dog. The only item that's not pork on our menu is our beef hot dog. We wrap it in bacon and instead of putting it in a hot dog bun we use one of our bolillos. We dress it up just like an L.A. street dog and people have gone crazy over it. If you've seen our Twitter, when we worked over in Westwood, over by UCLA, one of our fans hashtagged us as 'legendary', so that was very inspiring”.
The Dia de los Puercos Savage Chefs Grub Truck will be one of over forty-plus great chefs and cooks paying tribute to bacon at the Big Bite Bacon Fest. Guests will have the opportunity to try many bacon-themed dishes there. There will also be over forty craft beers available for tasting and purchase. In addition, there will be a cooking competition, where the top dishes and chefs will be chosen for the Big Bite Dish Awards. Cash prizes will be awarded totaling $3,000 and the winners will have a chance to move up and compete against the best of the best chefs at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas.
The Big Bite Bacon Fest will be held on the Queen Mary in Long Beach on August 2, 2014. Info on the Big Bite Bacon Fest and tickets can be obtained at the event website, www.bigbiteevents.com. Info on the event can also be obtained through the Queen Mary's website, www.queenmary.com.
Big Bite Bacon Fest
August 2, 2014
To be held at the
1126 Queens Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802
Dia de los Puercos Savage Chefs Grub Truck