Talking Fish Tacos with What’s The Catch?
1. Tell us about What's The Catch?
We three owners, Richard, Brett and Glenn, have been good friends for a long time. Over time we’ve discussed different business concepts. Richard and Brett have been involved with the food and seafood industry for a long time. With all the hype around the Beaches having food trucks, Richard brought it to our attention and we decided that the only way we’d do it is if we had a really cool truck. We started looking around and, ironically, we found the Airstream the next day, and that’s how it started. We all went full in.
We wanted a retro throw back to the 1960’s beachside type of food truck. The Airstream gives us a more of a laid-back feel that’s associated with the Keys and the southern Florida beaches. That leads to thoughts of shrimp, fresh caught from out of the surf. It’s about the guy in flip flops and baggies coming up to grab a quick bite.
2. What sort of food do you serve?
We are 90% seafood. We offer healthy grilled options and of course some deep fried options as well. On the healthier side we have our Cilantro Lime Grilled Sea Scallop Taco, we have a beautiful fresh Seared Ahi Tuna Taco, and with our various Grouper tacos we use a premium grilled grouper without added butter or dropping the fish into the deep fryer. We take the filet and bring it from the grill to the buyer. On the fried side we have our Island Shrimp Taco, Blue Lava Shrimp Taco, Cheddar Ranch Fried Chicken Taco, Buffalo Chicken Taco, Fried Seasoned Catfish Taco to name a few.
3. Are you also featuring gluten-free options?
Yes, anything we serve can be made gluten-free. Most of our food is naturally gluten-free and then we offer the option of corn tortillas in place of flour tortillas for our tacos. Not everything is automatically gluten-free though, so it’s best to let us know how you want it prepared.
4. Why did you decide on a seafood food truck?
Chef Brett is a deep sea spear fisherman as a hobbyist. For years he’s been cooking us food and catering large parties. When the opportunity came to have a food truck with both Chef Brett and Chef Richard, seafood was right in their wheelhouse and there really isnt another seafood truck on the street. It’s a preferred menu choice for all of us as owners and operators - it’s what we like to eat. We all prefer a great piece of fish over a burger. If we’re going to have food waists, we’re going to enjoy it!
5. Did you ever consider a brick and mortar restaurant?
We’ve discussed it but the truck is a way for us to get into the business to make sure we can be successful at it before making the full financial commitment to a brick and mortar restaurant. The truck also gives us the ability to try out different areas of town.
6. What’s the First Street Taco?
It’s a taco that draws its inspiration from a Peruvian Gold sauce made here in Jacksonville. We’d been using the Peruvian sauce in our backyard grilling and wanted to create a taco built around it. We start with a filet of grilled grouper that has a small amount of Peruvian seasonings. As we’re grilling the filet we brush on a little more Peruvian Gold Sauce. When it’s cooked we pile it into a taco wrapper along with lettuce, avocado, pico, and cilantro before drizzling a little more Peruvian Gold Sauce over the whole thing. It’s so good and everyone loves that flavor. The name is inspired by the fact that the sauce is made here in Jacksonville.
7. What’s the Key West Taco?
It’s a taco that Chef Richard came up with. It’s got a light flavor that comes from the fresh lime citrus we use, along with a good bite of cilantro. These flavors are at the base of Chef Richard’s cream sauce, which also includes sour cream and a few other spices. The taco starts with a simple filet of grilled grouper. As soon as the fish is cook it’s brushed with an oil-based version of Chef Richard’s sauce. It’s then laid on a bed of lettuce along with our pico and avocado before being drizzled with the creamy, citrus-based sauce. The freshness of the fish along with the freshness of the sauce really livens your palate. It’s very vibrant.
8. What’s the Island Shrimp Taco?
Its so good! It's golden fried shrimp on a bed of lettuce and purple cabbage and then we top it with a pineapple, mango, melon slaw and some Peruvian Gold sauce. It has tons of vibrant colors, lots of flavors, and it's a great summertime treat!
9. What’s your favorite item?
Brett: Mine is the Ahi Tuna Taco and the Sea Scallop Taco. It doesn't get any more fresh or more tasty than these 2 menu items. The flavors are exactly what you would want and expect from a gourmet food vendor. You will leave our truck feeling like you just left a nice restaurant and you will have only spent $10.
Glenn: my personal favorite is the Baja Taco. It starts with a filet of grilled and blackened grouper. We then add a fresh salsa made daily from corn, black beans, jalapeños, tomatoes and a little Italian dressing. It all goes on a bed of lettuce with a little pico, cheese and a special, spicy house sauce we top it all off with. It’s an amazing taco! It’s very fresh. It’s for the person who wants a little kick of heat for lunch. But the Buffalo Chicken Taco is also special!
Chef Richard: for me it’s neck and neck between the Key West Taco and the Blue Lava Taco. One day as we were sitting around working on our menu ideas. I fried up some shrimp and we were trying out different sauces. I’ve always leaned towards a Buffalo Shrimp sauce, so I tossed some shrimp in a spicy Buffalo sauce and put them into a wrap along with blue cheese dressing and crumbles of real blue cheese along the top. It was one of those deals where I ate it and was immediately blown away. I was actually a little surprised at how good it tasted. That became our Blue Lava Wrap and now I could eat one every day.
10. What have been the most popular items?
The Key West Taco has been the most popular, followed closely by the Ahi Tuna Taco. Over time the Key West Taco will probably become our signature item. It’s had a great reception and Chef Richard’s citrus sauce gives it a really unique flavor.
11. How did you come up with your menu?
We’re just a bunch of good eaters and these are our personal favorites. Our menu isn’t huge but it has something for everyone. We wanted to have a good mix of options but we also wanted to do just a few things and to do them well. We think this approach will give us a distinctive brand that will appeal to a certain audience who will hopefully seek us out and look forward to when we’re serving in their area.
12. Chef Richard, what’s your culinary background?
Chef Richard: I got into cooking at a very young age. It was with Glenn, ironically enough. We were teenagers in high school. There were a bunch of pretty girls working at Calico Jacks. Glenn had a job there and I wanted one too, so I ended up getting a job in the back as a prep cook. That was 31 years ago. From there I worked in the restaurant business through my 20’s and 30’s. As you may know, the restaurant business is often described as a young person’s career. As I got older, working weekends, holidays and late nights just didn’t fit as well for me. I took a big leap of faith into the office environment, which I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. But I’ve always had a deep love of cooking and food and it stayed with me. With the food truck it gives me the opportunity to get back into the business without the crazy hours. I can still have family time.
I didn’t go to culinary school, but my claim to fame is that I was with Outback Steakhouse at it’s early inception. I worked at the Outback on San Jose Blvd, working my way up from the bottom as a salad guy. I really appreciated how Outback ran the kitchen. I was fortunate to mentor under a gentleman by the name of [EDJ: missed name] who was really passionate about food and food preparation. He was also a really good spice guy. On Sundays when nobody wanted to be in the restaurant he’d have a seminar to teach us how to make different things. It was very fascinating to me to see how you could start with one thing as a base and turn it into many different dishes with different flavor profiles.
Towards the end of my time at Outback I was an assistant kitchen manager, running the back of the house.
13. Glenn, what’s your role at What's The Catch?
I’m an investor and I help out on the creative side of the business. I’m not a cook, so I focus on the marketing and social media side of things. We didn’t wrap the truck but decided to use stickers on the outside instead. The design of the look, our overall brand, and ensuring we have a good menu is the sort of thing I help with. As we’re starting up I’m also helping outside of the truck to make sure we have enough supplies, that the tables are neat and clean, and there’s condiments available for our guests. All those little things that go along with serving great food.
14. How long did it take to get the truck going from the time you decided to start the business?
It was 60 days from the time we decided to give it a shot until we were going.
15. Can you tell us about your launch?
We launched on the 15th of March  at the March of Dimes Food Truck Rally in Tinseltown. We served 365 entrees in 5 hours. It was a grand opening.
16. Were you surprised when you got orders for 365 entrees on your opening day?
We were totally surprised! We didn’t bring enough food and Glenn had to rush back to our commissary to re-stock. We also needed more gas for the generator so we wouldn’t run out. It took being nimble and reacting quickly.
17. Were there any big surprises prior to the launch?
How much time do you have? Probably the biggest surprise is all the red tape you need to go through to get established. There was a lot more to it then we expected. And after filling out all the permits, if you want to work at the Beach there’s a whole other set of permits needed.
Another surprise is that when we bought the food truck we assumed it was ready to go. It turned out the setup was backwards inside the truck. That meant that we had to pull everything out and prefabricate the inside to make sure it was friendly for the chefs and the person taking orders. So, when we thought we were set to go with the truck we found out we were just starting. That was probably the biggest shocker. We could have kept things how they were but we’d definitely not have been able to serve 365 meals on our opening day.
Another surprise came when we started getting quotes for certain things. For example, we thought we’d be able to polish our 1971 Airstream for a few hundred dollars. We then learned that it’s a 3-step process and the final cost was a lot more. Overall there was a lot more cost involved in getting the Airstream curbside ready than we’d originally thought.
That was another surprise, on the positive side this time. When we started we thought that with our connections and smarts we’d be able to find some places, no problem. As we got closer and closer we still didn’t have a place. Richard and Brett took a trip down to Hemming Plaza to see how some of the other food trucks were handling things there. They ran into the team from Up in Smoke and what they’ve done to help us out we can’t begin to describe. They took us under their wing to help us get going - sharing things we should be doing along with things we shouldn’t be doing. They’re the ones who corrected our kitchen design. They have been instrumental in helping us with our paperwork, our menu, and they’ve also been helping to get us locations.
18. Have you found your locations yet?
We are only doing lunches on Thursdays and Fridays. We do a rotation at Hemming Plaza every other Fridays and we do Fanatics Sports every other Thursdays. We have been doing a bunch of events and private parties lately.
19. What about the Beaches?
We’d love to come to the Beaches but it’s really hard to find a location and the laws are pretty ridiculous. It's almost like they don't want food trucks there. If we can find somewhere, we’ll set up. Parking the truck close enough to the action is the challenge. It’s great that the City is opening the Beach to food trucks but for there to be an effective test there needs to be locations where trucks can set up.
20. Do you provide catering?
Yes! We are only 90 days into this journey but we have already catered several events and served over 500 people in one day of service. We can custom make a menu for any event.
21. Can you tell us about your experience at the JAX Truckies Food Truck Championship in May?
It was a great event. There were a lot of people out and a lot of great food trucks. We won the overall Judge’s Choice Award. We were only 62 days old when we won so it was a real honor for us.