This is a dining alternative that could not have existed 20 years ago. Your father did not think, Sure, I'd like some grilled wild salmon with roasted-shallot bread pudding--but I don't feel like sitting down to eat it. But gourmet-food trucks, staffed by trained chefs who have worked in high-end restaurants, have been appearing on city streets throughout the country. "People in their 30s and late 20s are not caught up with trying to impress people by going to the most luxurious establishment and throwing money around," says Jerome Chang, 31, who dispenses $5 crème brûlée out of the Dessert Truck in New York City. "It's about getting really good ingredients made with care and not about getting our egos stroked by being treated like a king."
Asia has always had great street food, and you can get perfect crepes in Paris and amazing tacos in Mexico City. Now American food snobs are separating themselves from regular snobs by lining up outside food trucks. And they're willing to wait longer--and pay more--than at local fast-food restaurants. "In the beginning I was a little wigged out by the fact that people had to wait in line for 20 minutes, but I'm not going to precook burgers so that people can go home earlier," says Josh Henderson, 35, who makes dishes like the aforementioned wild salmon ($8) and a Kobe-beef burger with bacon jam ($7) at Skillet, his Airstream trailer in Seattle. Henderson opens the trailer window at 9 a.m. and often runs out of his organic, mostly locally sourced food by 1 p.m. His patrons eat it on the street, back in their offices or at a nearby park. He hopes to have three trucks and even a stationary take-out window by the end of the year. "But it's not going to be a take-out restaurant," he says. "It's going to be chefs handing people their food. Not waiters and waitresses."
Besides filling a market for healthy fast food that's really good, chefs are taking the wheel because working in a traditional kitchen sucks. "All these fine-dining restaurants work their cooks to the bone and pay them very little money, and the owners get rich," says Chang, who started his truck with a friend who attends Columbia's School of Business. Compared with restaurants, trucks have a lot less overhead, don't require managing a staff and focus on lunch, freeing chefs from working late nights and weekends. "I was a chef instructor here in Seattle for a year, and half the students don't want to work in restaurants," says Henderson. "In the next two years, you're going to see a ton of these popping up."
We fuss over the impact of water containers on the environment but overlook their potential impact on our health LISA TAKEUCHI CULLEN, HEALTH, PAGE 65