10 Questions about Mother Fletcher's Curbside Cuisine with Dorothy Forkasdi
1. Tell us about Mother Fletcher's Curbside Cuisine.
We're a food truck specializing in filet mignon steak sandwiches and teriyaki wings. Everything is cooked to order on board. We do no pre-cooking.
I hand make most of our sauces and marinades from scratch. For our Mongolian stir fry I'm using home made sauces. Same with the marinade for my wings - everything is based on a formula I've come up with over many years. For my black and blue I make my own blackened seasoning.
For our food we try to get everything we can locally.
2. What's the theme to the type of food you carry?
I'd describe it as a fusion of American and Asian influences. But I also do different specials. It's somewhat eclectic of what I come up with.
3. How long has your truck been operating?
It was 2 years in November (2012).
4. Where does the name "Mother Fletcher's" come from?
Both my husband and I had mothers who were really good cooks. They've passed away but they left a big influence and we wanted to reflect that in the name. My mother was from the North and Danny's mother was from the South so I learned a great deal about Northern and Southern cooking. Then, a long time ago in Myrtle Beach, SC, long before the House of Blues, there was a place called Mother Fletcher that had local bands and partying. I wanted a name, that when people heard it, they wouldn't forget it.
5. What makes Mother Fletcher's special?
A few things - our prices are kept as low as we can and people know they're getting a fair amount of fresh food, cooked to order.
6. How does cook to order work for a food truck? Isn't that too slow?
I hand cut all the meat. For example, when I get the tenderloin I trim it out and slice it myself by hand. I can cook to order a steak sandwich in a couple of minutes.
...is it just you cooking?
…how do you get the food out fast enough?
I have to be really prepared. And people don't mind waiting a few minutes knowing their food is being cooked right then. Even my health inspector was surprised. She was telling me that with wings, for example, most people pre-cook them most of the way and just finish cooking when they're ordered. But that cannot be good with all the health issues. Which is another reason I cook to order. It's safer to cook something to the right temperature and serve it like that then it is to try to pre-cook something and keep it within the range of being safe for a length of time.
…have you always done cook to order?
Yes. I'm sure you've gone to places and ordered something that tastes like it might have been under a light for a while. We didn't want that.
7. Can you recommend a few things to give people a sense of what Mother Fletcher's is all about?
If you're a true foodie I'd recommend our Mongolian dish. It's a stir fry that I cook in the wok. It's available with the filet or with chicken. And by me hand cutting the meat I know it's very lean because I'm cutting out the fat and skin. Then I cook it to order. The way I've done the sauce is to make it a little spicy and a little sweet. I give people the option to add more spice - if they like it that way I'll bump it up for them.
The black and blue is very popular. It's the filet mignon with my blackened seasoning, a blue cheese sauce and blue cheese crumbles.
8. Can you tell us about some of your vegetarian offerings?
I have a falafel that I make from scratch using dried chick peas and local herbs and spices. I make the tzatziki sauce as well, which is a cucumber sauce. Some days I might do a tabouli and a couple of other things, but I always have the falafel.
9. Why did you decide to have a focus on vegetarian food?
There are so many people nowadays that are vegetarian that I wanted to have something available for them. I never knew that falafel was so popular and I'm really surprised how well it sells. People really love it, even if they're meat eaters and not normally vegetarians.
…why is that, do you think?
Maybe it's because people are used to getting canned or frozen falafel with store bought dressing, whereas I'm making it from scratch.
10. What would you recommend that's a little different?
People love the Mongolian. It's just different.
Our wings are really good too, even for people who may not normally like wings. When we did the GA-FL game last weekend I had a gentleman who ordered a couple of steak sandwiches and his wife asked about the wings. I told her how good the teriyaki wings were but she wasn't a fan of teriyaki wings. When their order was ready I threw in a couple of sample wings to try. About 30 minutes later I looked at the window and saw that the gentleman was back in line. I asked if he tried the wings. He said "I don't like wings but you changed my mind on the wings, that's why I'm in line now." I've had so many people say "I don't like wings, but I like your wings."
…why is that? What's different about your wings?
I spent about 13 years tweaking the recipe. I also marinate my wings - they aren't dredged but they're marinated so the flavor isn't just on the outside but goes all the way through the wing. So often, when you think of a teriyaki wing you think of a wing that's drippy and soggy and just has flavor on the outside but tastes like what they call a "naked wing" on the inside. Mine aren't like that. They're not wet wings, so when I fry them they're crispy on the outside but still juicy on the inside and the flavor goes all the way through.
11. What about desserts?
I have a dessert that's available all year round. It's the S'mores melt. It's Nutella with marshmallow fluff on really thin Italian bread, grilled in real butter.
12. What's the most popular thing on the truck?
I'd say the Mongolian stir fry.
13. What do you like the most?
I like the teriyaki wings. I love the Mongolian chicken as well. And every once in a while I'll eat a filet mignon with nothing on it, just the steak on the toasted roll.
14. When you're not eating at Mother Fletcher's where do you like to eat?
I have a really good friend who loves to cook and we usually go to her house and she'll do something gourmet, be it from Ina Garten, or different celebrity chefs' cook books. She'll pull recipes from there and we'll meet on a Sunday and eat say, lobster mac and cheese, and a chocolate chip pie from scratch.
15. Has your menu stayed consistent?
I've added things but I really haven't removed anything. In the beginning I didn't have the falafel but added it when people started asking for more vegetarian dishes. I added that because it's not something you can get fresh all the time.
16. Where do you get your recipes?
I make them up from years and years of trying things. I also run specials to try things out and see what people like.
17. Can you talk about your cooking influences?
I grew up and my mother was a really good cook and a really good baker. I didn't do a lot of eating out when I was young. Even to this day I don't do a lot of eating out. I was spoiled as a child - even when I had pizza it was a pizza my mother had made from scratch that day. My mother would even make the sauce and bake the dough. When you start by eating fresh food and baked cookies out of the oven instead of out of a package that's what you get used to. When you get older you still want to eat the way you've become accustomed to eating.
18. What made you want to make cooking a profession?
I wanted to do it for years and years. I'm going to be honest with you - fear of failure is what drove me. I thought if I ever opened anything it would be a bakery, because I love to bake.
…do you do a lot of baking for Mother Fletcher's?
As the winter comes I do more baking but not so much in the summer months because the truck just gets too hot.
19. Have you ever had a cooking job?
Oh yes, that's my background. I've always worked in restaurants as hard as I could for other people. When my husband lost his job of 32 years we moved to St. Augustine hoping the job situation would be better there. But we couldn't find jobs and I said "we need to do something, so let's give it a shot."
20. Why did you decide on a food truck and not a brick and mortar restaurant?
Having worked in restaurants for so long I knew that there's quite a bit of overhead in a brick and mortar. You have rent from the get-go. Then you need wait staff. You have to be very dependent on other people, many who can go anywhere at the drop of a hat. Having just my husband and I, we know that we can count on each other.
21. Did you design the truck?
We designed the wrap of the truck. We looked at about 5 different trucks and narrowed it down to the one we have now. It came with the kitchen already in place. We just had to tweak a few things to meet Florida laws.
22. What have been some of the surprises running Mother Fletcher's?
That it would take this long to take off. Food trucks have been around for a long, long time. It's just taken a bit longer in Florida for all the zoning and what not. I must say that Mike Field has really helped open the door for all of us food trucks. He's gotten out and made it possible for so many people to get over the roach coach mentality to realize that there's real gourmet food coming out of these trucks now. People are working really hard to make excellent food at a reasonable price and that's finally starting to get recognized.
23. Are you seeing the reception to food trucks changing?
Oh yes, tremendously! Two years ago when we started the only place we could go was Pecan Park, which is a flea market in Jacksonville. There's still no laws on the books governing food trucks.
24. Where are you now?
We have a few different spots in Jacksonville, primarily. Monday's we're at Everbank at 501 Riverside. On Wednesday we go to Key Automotive on Southside Blvd. Fridays we go to First Florida Credit Union on Southpoint. They've just started, on the first Saturday of the month, having food trucks by the Hyatt where the old courthouse was. It's been very well received. People can also check us on Facebook and Twitter.
25. What lessons can you share about what it takes to run a food truck?
You have to be consistent. When somebody gets something it has to be the same every time they come back. Consistency is very, very important.
26. Do you cater?
We do more private parties then we do catering. We've done birthday parties, and baby showers; we did a Halloween party the other night. Really, any reason people have for getting together. So often when people give parties they end up frazzled trying to make everything work and they don't get a chance to enjoy the occasion themselves. Having us there takes so much pressure off the host because they can enjoy themselves knowing everyone is taken care of food-wise.
A lot of people see us somewhere for a couple of hours and think they'd like to run a food truck. But they have no idea of the hours that go into preparing for events and all the cleaning up that's required. We're just like a restaurant. We get inspected just like a brick and mortar does.
27. What's next for Mother Fletcher's?
I can see us expanding the menu to add more lighter dishes, more vegetarian options and more baking. I can't take anything off my menu because people really come to love certain items. But I think there's a place to bring more items out.
28. Anything else you'd like to add?
So often you get food that is over-processed and contains things that shouldn't be in it. I didn't want to do that. I wanted fresh food that was organic whenever possible. Our potatoes are hand cut and cooked to order. I hand trim and slice all of our steak. I have so many customers who say that our steak just melts in their mouth. A lot of time steak can be chewy but ours just melts. I hope people get a chance to come out and taste the new gourmet that's coming out of food trucks like Mother Fletcher's.