It isn't easy hard for the Zameen co-owner to pick his favorite dish. Photo by Chip Scheuer.
Five years ago, Ed Watson opened Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine in Aptos, in partnership with his father-in-law Mike Assar. He took time to talk about Zameen’s new food truck and new mobile menu.
When did you start thinking about “translating” your Zameen menu for mobile cuisine?
I’ve been wanting to get a food truck for the past two years, having been utterly addicted to shows like the Great Food Truck Race. I also love the idea of buying a bunch of food in the morning, hitting the road and trying to sell everything before returning home. At the restaurant we focus on trying to make everything as fresh as possible and I think the truck epitomizes this. In addition, I think Mediterranean food really lends itself to a food truck. The inspiration for Zameen’s food was “street food”—that is to say, it is sold around the world by street vendors and “hole in the wall” operations. Some of the best food I’ve had is from food stands or local cafes on vacations in Turkey and Greece.
What were the immediate challenges in taking your specialties “on the road?”
I think the immediate challenge was working out the portion size of Zameen’s most popular items. Obviously the truck food has to be portable, and easy to eat on the go. It also has to be sold at a much more affordable price than restaurant food. Another challenge was determining what bread to use for our wraps. We have now decided to bake bread in the morning in our WoodStone oven at the restaurant. This saves us money, but takes a little more time but in the end it allows us to provide freshly baked bread to customers daily. We quickly found that people don’t really carry cash anymore, so we had to work out a system to accept credit cards on the truck.
Is it difficult juggling a stationary restaurant and a mobile catering truck?
It is. The truck has to be loaded and out of the restaurant by 10:20am to get to campus in time for the lunch rush. So at the moment, I arrive early in the morning at the restaurant (after dropping my 2-year-old Owen off at school) and help load up the truck, before planning restaurant lunch specials with my head chef Bonifacio Bio, and hitting the road. I am fortunate, though, to have reliable, hardworking staff, some of which have been with me since day one, who are focused on preserving the consistency of the restaurant menu.
What’s your current favorite item from the Zameen mobile kitchen?
It is a close tie between our spicy piri-piri chicken wrap and our new turkey burger with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto aioli.