Maybe it's because I grew up a California skater kid or because I collected more Thrasher magazines than comic books, but the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. If you have not seen this documentary narrated by Sean Penn and featuring the Godfathers of modern skateboarding, it's worth watching even if you're not a skater (there could even be a full movie on YouTube...). It may sound like a stretch, but after serving the food truck community for a few years now, I've noticed a parallel comparison between the recent food truck movement and the skateboarding movement lead by Team Zephyr (Z-Boys) in the 1970's. Check out some of these observations:
Z-BOYS- In the early 70's skateboarding was not mainstream and the Z-Boys were the punk version of average skaters. "They were dedicated to being anti-mainstream, and they were proud to be anti-mainstream." -Nathan Pratt. People were still going to discos on roller skates and many didn't even know what a skateboard was. When skateboarding started to catch on, no one was riding with the style of the Z-Boys. Early on, their low to the ground "concrete surfing" style was not understood or appreciated by onlookers or even within the existing skate community, but the Z-Boys liked being different.
FOOD TRUCKS- Other than a handful of food truck OGs, the gourmet food truck movement primarily started when the economy soured in 2008-2009. Talented chefs found themselves out of work, but wanted to stay in their profession. Banks were not lending money to restaurateurs let alone most new businesses. This opened the door for gourmet food truck operators to show their skills and open mobile restaurants with much less capital that it would take to open a restaurant. Food trucks were thought of as "roach coaches" or taco trucks (luncheros) with sub-par food. Even when more food trucks started gaining some popularity, they were outcasts to most of society. "How could you eat of that? Moms were grabbing their kids, scary...scary. Now those same moms are hiring that truck for their kid's birthday party" - Roy Choi MAD Symposium 2013 (BTW only Roy Choi could end a food talk in Copenhaggen with "Worst Comes to Worst" by Dilated Peoples - props).
Z-BOYS- The Z-Boys skated because they loved it. There were no sposors early on, there was no expectation of future fame or fortune. "We weren't making money off of it. We didn't think there was any future in it. We were doing it because we loved doing it." - Stacy Peralta. There was actually risk in what they were doing; illegally draining and skating vacant pools and building ramps to push their sport to the limit. Their passion for their sport pushed them to create opportunities that never existed.
FOOD TRUCKS- Pioneers like Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles was passionate about creating amazing food when they launched their first truck in 2008. These first gourmet food truck operators took a huge risk in launching an untested business model. Their passion and determination was clear to the public and the unique flavors paved the way for others to follow their path. Gourmet food truck operators were not expecting to make a killing in profits and probably weren't expecting to become famous by slinging fusion food on the run. Their passion for their art pushed them to create opportunity for food trucks that did not exist.
Z-BOYS- The Zepher skate team started winning skating competitions right away, earning sponsorships, and taking the skateboarding world by storm. Their first real competition was in Del Mar where they were seen as outsiders and punks. "It was like a hockey team going to a figure skating contest" - Jay Adams. Their with their unique style, presence and attitude got attention where ever they went. The win at Del mar was just the beginning of the Z-Boys professional skating careers and the beginnings of skateboarding as we know it today...
FOOD TRUCKS- Food trucks were some of the first businesses to really utilize Twitter and social media. They used Twitter to build a community and a following. Other food trucks caught on and helped build a young, dedicated following which in turn helped sprout their emerging industry. When gourmet food trucks started to get taken seriously, the food world began to change as well. Quick service restaurants realized they would need to step up their game and provide quality, exciting meals to win customers. All the "new" competition ultimately benefited eaters. Menus at brick and mortar restaurants started to replicate some of the street flare. Food truck lots started popping up in almost ever major metro city. Event organizers started to charge admission to food truck events that would get SOLD OUT. We are still in the early adopting stage for gourmet food trucks so these trends are still evolving and the industry is still trending to a very bright future.
Z-BOYS- More of the Z-Bots went on to gain professional status, getting sponsors and making money that they never anticipated. They were celebrities within the skateboarding community. They were featured in magazines and won international attention. They helped open the door for the future of their sport to be accepted. Though not intended, skateboarding became mainstream and a respected sport globally.
FOOD TRUCKS- Just like Z-Boys paved the way for skateboarding, gourmet food trucks are paving the way for some chefs. Many of these street food chefs are essentially artists who can make their names through their unique foods and style. Some of these food truck owners end up opening their own restaurants or fleets of food trucks if that's what they choose. From only a few originators, it is now estimated that there are upwards of 5,000 gourmet food trucks countrywide. Who would have thought five years ago that there would be reality TV shows based on food trucks? We are still in somewhat the early stages of the food truck boom, but most people now understand the gourmet food truck movement and appreciate the diversify of food and people behind it.
Today food trucks are practically as iconic to California as skateboarding. I love the comparison between the two because of the people behind the movements. Trends become permanent because of the people that turn their passion into careers and influence everyone around them. The Z-Boys has an infectious quality that attracted others to them and to their sport, just like the gourmet food truck founders attracted their fans and inspired others to join them.