When Daniel Pitre — who moved to the Q.C. from New York eight years ago — started feeling that Korean food was missing from the cities bustling food scene, he decided to take matters into his own hands. The 28-year-old started eyeing food trucks and looked to other folks in the food scene for advice on how to start up his own operation. And it didn't happen over night. It took Pitre three to four years to figure out the kinks, from managing the books to concocting a menu with tasty bites that would bring customers to his wheels.
For Hiya Food Truck (www.hiyafoodtruck.com), Pitre puts a modern take on menu items like bulgogi, chicken katsu, spicy pork and vegetarian dumplings — a popular snack for plant-eaters and carnivores alike. The must-try bulgogi combo, served in a deep bowl with marinated beef barbecue, rice, noodles, lettuce, sesame seeds and pickled daikon radish sauce with two dumplings on top, satisfies cravings for the sweet and savory.
It's perfectly topped off with a cold brew, available in the many breweries the truck frequents, including pop-ups at Sugar Creek Brewing Company on most Wednesday evenings. Pitre, who describes the food truck's style as a combination of traditional Korean and Asian fusion, has plans to add to the menu in time. Kimchi dumplings? Bibimbop? The possibilities are endless.
Creative Loafing: On top of your feelings that Korean food was lacking in Charlotte, what other factors did you take into consideration before embarking on the food truck saga?
Daniel Pitre: I'm half Korean and half French and I've always felt like being apart of two cultures has helped me out in various ways and I kind of wanted to share my Korean side of the culture with everyone in Charlotte. I've tried to make the food as affordable as possible. Usually pricing at Korean restaurants can be pretty high. So, I wanted to make it extremely affordable. Also, a lot of the schools down here have a lot of transfer students, too. So, I wanted to make them feel more comfortable and more at home.
As a newbie to food truck operations, what's been the biggest challenge?
The rules and regulations. You've got to learn every single detail and especially since the City Council is having meetings in regards to new food truck laws. You've got to be very politically active; attending those meetings, knowing who your representatives are and getting out there and making connections. In a growing city like Charlotte, the battle is trying to get the regulations right.
Hiya is a mix of traditional Korean and Asian fusion with modern twists. What's the best example of that mix on the menu?
The Carolina bulgogi burger. I wanted to show some Carolina pride, so I mixed in some tastes of the Carolinas with the Korean food. It's along the lines of a hamburger with beef seasoning and cole slaw.