Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
While once there were one or two gourmet taco caterers, now there are many. Several are bad knock-offs so you need to know the difference.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But a poor imitation is just a bad idea.
This is what happens in the food service business all the time. One company comes up with a innovative idea, then others copy it. Rarely are the imitators as good as the original. This is precisely what occurred when an Orange County taco catering company (us) came on the scene featuring gourmet tacos followed by a ton of mediocre knockoffs.
Why is that? Where it comes to a distinct, perhaps unique cuisine the original version very often comes from a genuine place. That can be ethnic recipes adopted from a grandmother. Or, the chef is well traveled and picked up some ideas from a month spent in a monastery, or on a fishing boat, or living in a mountain village. Once the collection of ingredients, herbs, spices and cooking methods are studied and embraced, that chef can return to civilization – or in the case of family recipes, to the 21st century – with a new menu to introduce to customers.
When that chef is successful, imitators are sure to follow. This is a story as old as money. The problem quite often is they don’t get it right. With cooking, instead of an ingenious blend of spices, a knock-off provider might just use more salt. They might miss the nuance in cooking or fail to understand if something has a narrow window of time for being served – too early or too late might lead to a compromise in taste or texture.
So how does an event planner know if a taco cart caterer is the real deal? Here are a couple of tips:
- Check the time in which the caterer has been in business. The mobile food revolution is not very old – food trucks and taco carts just began appearing in the mid-Aughts (around 2005 or 2006). The most accomplished companies are those that have been in business at least five years or more.
- Ask for customer reviews. There’s some value to online reviews, however that is a system that is often gamed by competitors to make the other companies look bad. Ask instead a company that provides taco catering for weddings or corporate events for one, two or more past customers’ contact information; contact them and discuss the overall experience (planning, execution and cleanup, for example).
- Ask about food ingredients, sourcing and special service requirements. This should be the single most important part of the cart caterer’s business. Ingredients are on a par with chef skills and service for delivering the superlative experience.
Never be afraid to do a little research, including quizzing caterers on the phone about their history and the actual food they work with. The good ones are most likely to share the most with you – because they have the best stories to tell.