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A new food truck alliance launched in Sacramento last week, one that aims to fundamentally shift the relationship the trucks have with both restaurant owners and the city government.
The group, Norcal Food Trucks (@EatNorcalTrucks), was started as both an alternative and a companion to the organization that has represented the food trucks so far – SactoMofo.
While SactoMofo is run by food truck advocates, Norcal Food Trucks will be run by the truck owners, according to Chris Jarosz, the owner of the Wicked' Wich truck and one of the organizers behind Norcal.
“We want to start representing ourselves,” Jarosz said. “We want to start showing that we have respect for the community…. We want to show the restaurant community that ‘Hey, we want to sit across from the table from you and talk about what works best for everyone. We don’t want to just tell you that we have the right to do whatever we want.’ ”
The organization's’ Facebook page has only been live for a few days, but it already has several of Sacramento’s gourmet food trucks on board, including EL Matador, Mama Kim’son the Go, Heavenly Dog, Local Kine Shave Ice and Fuszion Eatz. Norcal has also opted to let in “trailers,” or trucks that pull their kitchen/cooking area behind them, such as The Pizza Company and Simply Southern.
Paul Somerhausen, one of the founders of SactoMofo, said he didn’t see Norcal as a compeitor and thought the group’s founding was a positive development for the local food truck scene.
“I don’t see it as an issue at all in the sense that the number of players in the local food truck scene has expanded significantly,” Somerhausen said, “and there is going to be people with various opinions and ultimately we all have the same goal, which is to change the ordinances and make Sacramento and more friendly community for mobile food vendors.”
Catherine Enfield, a former member of SactoMofo who runs the food blog Munchie Musings and the food truck site sacfoodtrucks.net, said she saw Norcal as the culmination of a process that began more than a year ago, when the food trucks first told City Council they intended to form an alliance. An organization never came together – until now.
“They want to represent themselves as truck owners, Enfield said. “The trucks are their businesses and their livelihoods, and they feel like trucks should be able to speak for themselves.”
Another factor that likely played a role: money.
While SactoMofo was started as a nonprofit organization, the group more recently became a for-profit company and began to charge trucks referral fees for events it organizes.
Norcal, on the other hand, has no plans to charge trucks referral fees, according to Jarosz.
“(SactoMofo) are starting to become a food truck event planner,” Enfield said, “but they are also trying to be advocates as well, but Norcal wants to be representatives of themselves.”
Part of Norcal’s plan to appease the city and restaurant owners is to pool the group’s funds to lease vacant, privately owned lots downtown, which will be used by several of the trucks at once on a rotating, weekly basis.
“The idea is to create more energy, to occupy some of these empty spaces and actually get people to come downtown because there is a lot more going on,” Jarosz said.
While Norcal will serve as an alternative to SactoMofo in some regards, Jarosz emphasized that he doesn't think the two groups will be rivals.
Enfield said she thinks that the food trucks will still work closely with SactoMofo, as the advocacy group has established itself as a powerful local brand.
“SactoMofo has become such a big thing, and the name has become so trendy, when people think of food trucks, they’re thinking ‘Oh, well, I should talk to SactoMofo,’ ” Enfield said.
Jared Goyette is the editor of the Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter - @JaredGoyette.