Lisandro "Chando" Madrigal hit the pause button on opening Chando's Tacos No. 3. Instead, he invested in building a new food truck at a cost of $140,000 because he saw that market as essential to his brand.
"Everybody's mobile," he said. " Why not go mobile? We have a truck, but that thing was breaking down all the time. It was from 1973. I spent like $1,400 in one month on just towing bills."
Food trucks have long been seen as a way for novices to break into the food business, but increasingly local brick-and-mortar restaurateurs are expanding into the segment as well. As I wrote earlier this month, Chris Nestor, the chef-owner behind Ink Eats & Drinks and House Kitchen & Bar, plans to launch a food truck if an arena gets built in downtown Sacramento.
Madrigal is slowly introducing his new truck to Sacramento's mobile scene, joining other food trucks at Garcia Bend Park and Thunder Valley Casino for special events. You're guaranteed to find the bright orange and yellow truck at Chando's Tacos, 5665 Power Inn Road, from 1-6 p.m. July 13, when Madrigal, his wife and business partner Karla, as well as their employees celebrate the first year of business for this location.
As for Restaurant No. 3, Madrigal has his eyes on Roseville in 2014.
Blue ribbons just a start
The California State Fair won't kick off until July 12, but Stephanie Jurkowski is already stirring up plenty of action at Cal Expo.
Jurkowski, coordinator of the creative arts and kitchen competitions, has put the arts judging behind her, but she started receiving preserves and canned goods in mid-June and will still be welcoming food entries until July 25. There's a food competition virtually every day, including those live cooking events that have chefs and firefighters dueling.
Those blue ribbons and bragging rights really get competitors' juices flowing.
"The ribbons that are handed out at state fairs across the nation are very valued," Jurkowski said. "Some people actually start or build careers based off them. They want to use whichever prize-winning entry they've submitted to start like a home-based barbecue sauce business or a preserved food business."
One contest judge at the State Fair, Linda J. Amendt, got her first cookbook deal because she had so many blue-ribbon recipes at fairs around the nation, roughly 700 at last count. She has since published another two books.
Digging into farm-to-fork
Many local food producers are looking to get the word out on their brands with events at Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork Week. Sterling Caviar is one of them.
A Sept. 20 opening reception, prepared by Ella Dining Room and Bar executive chef Ravin Patel and his team, will celebrate the brand that Peter Struffenegger founded 20 years ago. Struffenegger, who sells eggs from sturgeon farmed in Elverta, sees the event as a way to expand the knowledge of his brand to local consumers.
"We're better known in New York and Paris than we are in Sacramento," he said. " We signed a contract with a distributor that gave him basically worldwide distribution rights, and we didn't do much of anything in terms of marketing."
Now Struffenegger has limited that distribution agreement to France and all of the United States, except California. He and his team are trying to cement their brand in the minds of consumers as a quality product, before China and other nations start ramping up production.
He'll have a dramatic backdrop for his meal, the Sacramento Water Intake Facility overlooking the Sacramento River at Robert T. Matsui Waterfront Park.