Aaron Byers did not go to cooking school, nor did he serve a high-level kitchen apprenticeship in Paris. Byers learned his craft surfing and sailing into tropical and exotic ports. While in these beautiful island countries and sea-drenched cities, he decided to become a part of the food-truck craze. His Nacho Bizness is one of the few trailers that makes the Fort Lauderdale street food scene. Here, Byers tells us about working on a yacht, cooking, and starting Nacho Bizness.
Clean Plate Charlie: Aaron, how did you decide to open a food truck?
Aaron Byers: I actually was in the yachting business, crewing on luxury yachts around the world, and I would go to these beautiful spots in Europe and on the islands. At every port, there were always these little street vendors, and they always have the best food. It was exciting to find these little hole-in-the-wall places, and I've always been part of a foodie family, so I wanted to open a restaurant.
How did you decide on the taco concept?
I spent a lot of time in San Diego, surfing with friends, and I picked up a lot of taco influence there. I had plenty of experience cooking tacos and making tacos for friends. All I wanted was a good taco, and I could never find one in Fort Lauderdale, so I wanted to open a taco restaurant here. My captain gave me a kick in the ass and said "You have money saved -- go make us some tacos." I decided I was going to do it.
How did you settle on your recipes?
One of my last boat trips was Thanksgiving two years ago. I told my friend on this trip to take our time getting this boat from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas. We took two weeks eating tacos along the way. When we finally docked, I took another two weeks, rented a car, and surfed and tasted every taco at every taco stand in the Baja peninsula. It's been superfun, and that's what I kind of base my business out of. I want to have fun. I really enjoy what I do, and I have a lot of fun with my customers.
Why did you decide on a food cart instead of a brick-and-mortar restaurant?
I'm from New Jersey, and I saw all the food trucks in New York, so I knew the craze was working its way down south. I thought I was the first in South Florida. Then I was looking to buy my trailer at Food Cart USA, and I walked into the parking lot. I saw Latin Burger just being finished. I tell everyone that I was the third or fourth truck on the scene. St. Patrick's Day 2010 was my first event. May 5 was the start of my first permanent spot.
So you basically gave up a life aboard a luxury yacht to run a food truck?
You could take the yachting industry and say I was living in a five-foot-by-five-foot cabin with another crewmember for months at a time. I see it that way, and you see it as living on a yacht, drinking champagne, and having sex with models. Yes, I went spearfishing, fishing, diving, hanging out in Monaco, dancing on tables, and living the life a couple of days a week, but I worked. It was amazing, but you're away from home six months a year at times; it's not lonely, but it gets old. I want a home, a life and roots. Through my 20s, it was amazing. I wouldn't change it for the world. Now that I'm in my 30s I want a dog, I want a house. I'm ticking things off the list.
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Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Byers, coming soon.