Shop Talk

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Food Trucks: The Film

May 10, 2011

The fancy food truck revolution rocking the U.S. restaurant scene traces its roots beyond the 2008 launch of Kogi — the Korean-Mexican taco truck that took Los Angeles by storm and tweeted its way to international stardom — to a grittier, working-class movement.

In her bilingual documentary film “Masa Revolution”, veteran Los Angeles journalist Patricia Nazario maps the food truck industry back to the 1960s, when blue-collar entrepreneurs served plastic-wrapped sandwiches, doughnuts and coffee to factory and office workers across Southern California.

Those food truck operators pulled down around five times more money than the blue-collar workers they fed and guarded their lucrative routes like Fort Knox.

“It was a cutthroat business,” said Nazario. “Catering truck operators were very protective of their routes and would pull out knives or guns to ward off the competition.”

Her film also chronicles how recent immigrants, largely Mexican, steered clear of the rough-and-tumble business model favored by their predecessors. Instead, they parked their taco trucks, or loncheros, in Hispanic neighborhoods.

Some of those restaurants-on-wheels have been using the same spot for more than 20 years and have become part of the fabric of the communities they serve, she said.

“I’m as enthralled with the hair-raising tales of old-school route drivers as I am with how social media is driving the gourmet food truck revolution among hipsters across the country,” Nazario said.

Los Angeles is in the vanguard of the food truck movement, which has fueled contentious battles between established restaurants and the gourmet trucks that park nearby.

“We get to the bottom of a modern day ‘David-and-Goliath’ struggle,” said Nazario, who has self-funded the project and is looking for financial help to get it through post production.

(Photo courtesy of Masa Revolution)

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