The rock 'n' roll-inspired food truck MIX'd UP is the brainchild of executive chef Brett Eanes and his business partner chef Massimiliano Gallinoni. An expansion of their Sandy Springs catering company Cuzine Chefs, MIX'd UP hit the streets in the summer of 2011. The truck serves chef-driven, gourmet street food dishes such as the Hero, a Greek lamb burger with Tzatziki sauce, and the ATL, a Coca-Cola-braised short rib sandwich with pimento cheese and pickled onions. We caught up with the truck on a typical day of service to see what it's like to live like a food trucker.
5:45 a.m.: Brett Eanes and the MIX'd UP food truck crew pull up to Restaurant Depot on the Westside. It's time to stock up on food and supplies for the day ahead. "We're on a double today," Eanes says. "Lunch at the Atlanta Food Truck Park, and then dinner in Cabbagetown." Eanes, a classically trained chef, shops with his two cooks Brandon Hammond and chef Terrell Holloway.
7 a.m.: Back at the satellite kitchen in Cabbagetown, the crew begins to prep. Ingredients are portioned out and carefully wrapped. Lists from the night before are checked and double-checked as fresh vegetables, containers of meat, and bags of bread are loaded onto the truck. "Once we're there, we're there. If we forget something, we're screwed," say Eanes.
9 a.m.: The MIX'd UP truck is ready to roll. The engine roars and the truck lurches from the curb. "Don't worry, you got that Allstate plan!" Hammond yells from the back. "You're in good hands." At approximately 9 feet wide, the truck takes up almost all of the narrow Cabbagetown street. Families and children playing in their front yards wave from behind picket fences. "We're local celebrities," Eanes says with a smile.
9:05 a.m.: With some calculated maneuvering, a right turn sends the truck rumbling through the Krog Street Tunnel. Next, a wide left onto DeKalb Avenue. "We're gonna take Decatur Street through downtown to get to Howell Mill," Eanes explains. "I avoid the interstate whenever possible." And for good reason: With 45 gallons of gasoline, 30 gallons of propane, and plenty of Freon pulsing through the truck's refrigeration system, a minor fender bender could cause a catastrophe. "Never tailgate a food truck," he says.
10:15 a.m.: MIX'd UP is the first to arrive at the Atlanta Food Truck Park. Eanes drives the truck to his favorite spot along the gravel lot's perimeter. Eanes lights the pilot lights while Hammond props up the menu board out front. Holloway portions out a pan of ground chorizo with an ice cream scoop in anticipation of the lunch rush. Eanes connects an iPad to the stereo system and pulls up Pandora. Sublime's "Garden Grove" fades into "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley. Drinks are stocked in the ice well below the service window.
Atlanta Food Truck Park co-owner Howard Hsu comes by to say hello. He joins Eanes in stuffing Cokes and Gatorade bottles into the ice. Hsu motions toward a construction crew installing 15-foot posts around the lot. "A truck took down a string of lights the other day," he says. "It was crazy." He explains that the posts will prop the lights up high enough to permit truck traffic below.
10:20 a.m.: The Mobile Marlay and Banged Up and Mashed pull in and find some free spots. One of the Banged Up and Mashed crew stops by on his way to the lemonade guy who's also begun setting up his cart. He takes a drink order from Eanes and his cooks. "I'll have the skrawberry," Hammond says. Holloway opts for mango lemonade. "We are all in competition," Eanes says, nodding to the other trucks. "But most of us are friends, too. There are a lot of really great people in this scene."
11 a.m.: The Atlanta Food Truck Park officially opens. Only three trucks, a cupcake cart, and lemonade stand await the lunch crowd. "Everyone's at 12th and Peachtree today," Eanes mutters. In the food truck world, too many trucks in one place means less money, but too few often causes prospective customers to leave for lack of options. The park's first visitors start to trickle in.
11:18 a.m.: Mix'D UP's first customer, a nine-to-fiver sporting a maroon button-up and dress pants, approaches the truck. He shifts his weight from side to side as he squints up at the colorful menu board. "Is the Fi Fi a sandwich?" he asks through a thick Eastern European accent. Eanes describes the dish of curried chickpeas served over basmati rice. The man goes with the ATL instead, a shredded short rib sandwich with pickled onions and pimento cheese spread.
Disaster strikes. Eanes discovers that the Coca-Cola sauce for the short rib sandwich has over-reduced, rendering the mixture too salty for service. He and Holloway whip up a new sauce. It takes a couple of tries, but they soon make a mixture they both agree tastes great. Crisis averted.