On The Line: Alissa Grenis & Chris Rubinstein Of Bite Me Foods, Part Two
Photo by Amanda DeFrancis
Read our interview with Alissa Grenis and Chris Rubinstein of Bite Me Foods, Part One. And now, on to Part Two. . .
Where's the strangest place you've ever parked? Grenis:I don't know if we have ever parked anywhere that strange, but until recently, she has never been scratched. I'm driving the truck mostly now, so watch out OC! I've hit a basketball rim, trashcan and a metal pole, all in the last month. Ahhhh.
Rubinstein: I don't think we've had too many strange spots. Parking every night at the commissary is strange, though. I may get a little stressed out about squeezing the truck in our spot when there's no place to move. I've never hit anything, but Alissa has tried to killed us a few times. That's why I usually drive.
Last song playing on your radio: Grenis:Love Line. Dr. Drew is the best! Seriously, the smartest man. At any point I turn it on, the topics are always relevant to my life. Anything country, I mostly only listen to the radio. I have this thing where I need to hear things at the same time as the rest of the world. Weird, I know. I'm the same way with television shows. Forget TiVo. I need to watch it in the moment.
Rubinstein:Last thing I listened to was The Dan Patrick show. Last song was August by Avail.
Where did you grow up? Grenis:I was born in Boulder, Colorado, but moved out here when I was five. I grew up in Riverside County. Say what you will about the 909, but we had horses and dirt bikes, so ha. Jokes aside, it was time for a change, and it was either LA or OC. So I went with my gut and moved up the freeway 40 minutes north.
Rubinstein:I'm originally from Philadelphia, but moved around a lot when I was a kid, and ended up back in Philly a few years ago. I attribute my cooking style to being a bit of a nomad. It's kinda all over the place. I moved to California to be the executive chef with a lovely company called Native Foods.
Hardest lesson you've learned: Grenis:That being a lady in a male-dominated world can be a challenge. Challenge accepted!
Rubinstein:Get a signed contract before you move 3,000 miles for a job.
What's your favorite childhood memory? Grenis:I loved Thanksgiving growing up. My whole family would get together and play BINGO after we would eat. We would all bring the silliest gifts to pawn off on one another. There was this hideous green sled that had the words "cool yule" painted on it. So ugly, but always a good laugh when you got stuck with it. Family is the most important thing to me, and the older I get, the smaller my family is. I deeply miss the ones we have lost.
Rubinstein:Pulling up the crab trap with my grandfather at the end of the dock in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
Who came up with your name? Grenis:My mom and I were tinkering around with names one day and came up with Bite Me. You can say I always had a thing for vampires and biting!
Greatest challenge about running a food truck: Grenis:The biggest challenge we have faced has been figuring out when and where we make money, and if, at the end of the day, we should've just stayed at home. Every day is a gamble. We're not a restaurant that just waits for patrons to stop in. We have to find them, or have them follow us. My good friend Adam (owner of the Greasy Weiner) has given me a lot of really great advice. And at the end of the day, this is a business, and I have to do what is best financially for everyone involved.
Rubinstein:Always hustling. Deciding if a spot is worth the time. You never turn down business, but sometimes it's best to say no. It's a really hard decision to make. Oh, and those things break down all the time. It's good to learn something about small engines and electrical work.
What were you up to five years ago? Grenis:Five years ago I was probably drinking a dirty martini by a pool somewhere and spending my nights all dolled up in a club. I had a lot of fun, and a very relaxed life in my twenties. My, how we grow up!
Rubinstein:I was the head chef at a really cool restaurant in Richmond, Virginia called Ipanema Cafe. A vegan/vegetarian joint in the basement of a building, it had the most character of any place I've been a part of. I think I grew the most as a chef there. The owner Kendra (just about) gave me full control of the menu, and I had a blast. I definitely wish I could do over again. With age comes experience.
Last book read or movie watched; how was it? Grenis:I just read Eat, Pray, Love for the third time. There are a lot of motivational, romantic, soul searching self-help books out there, but this book just touches my heart. I would recommend it to every woman, any age, to read at some ponit in your life. Inspirational. My favorite part is all the eating she does while in Italy. Yum.
Rubinstein:Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang and A Fighters Heart by Sam Sheridan (I switched back and forth). Fresh Off the Boat was great. I typically don't get into books about food, but Eddie's take on things, and the way he writes make it hard to put down. A Fighters Heart is about the psychology of fighting and why we fight. It was a really good read, and takes a look at some things from a different perspective you normally wouldn't want to think about.
What did you do prior to running the food truck, and what prompted the decision to own one? Grenis:Well, I went to school for marketing, and served cocktails at a casino in San Diego. I took some time off of work, and really wanted to figure out a career path that would make me happy. Truly happy. My parents (who both work in the medical field) gave me the best advice: Whatever you choose, don't do it for money or for society. A job is a modern day necessity. We all have to work to live the life we want, but love what you do and always be passionate, and you'll have no regrets. I always loved to cook, and food trucks were a popular, less expensive alternative to a restaurant. Poof! A food truck.
Rubinstein: Before this, I was a senior sous chef at the Staples Center with Levy Restaurants, running their VIP and suite holders clubs. It was a great job because I got to be around sports and food at the same time. I had some amazing experiences there, but the corporate atmosphere was a bit much for me. Most recently, I was with M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica with chef Scott Winegard, a beautiful, raw-vegan restaurant. We (and they still are) are doing some next level food there.
I've decided to take a little break from the traditional chef life and explore some different things I'm interested in while still helping Alissa, and not taking myself completely out of the culinary world.
Last thing you looked up/searched online: Grenis:My Yelp account. I check it all day long. I hate Yelp; it's like Facebook for me! Haha.
Rubinstein:Hiking trails in Ojai.
Do you have any skills that are non-food related? Grenis:Those questions are getting a little personal now! I am a great personal shopper. I worked at a bikini shop when I was 18, and I can find the perfect cut, color and style for any figure. It's kind of a gift.
Rubinstein:I'm really good at Tetris.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business? Grenis:If I didn't own a food truck, would be working at Food Network or for Vogue magazine. Totally different life!
Rubinstein:I'm currently trying my hand at wildland firefighting, hands down the most intense and strenuous thing I've done in my life. I have so much respect for those dudes.
Is there anything you'd like readers to know that we haven't already asked? Grenis:My grandma Dee, father and mother have been my biggest supporters in business and life. I am truly blessed. That being said, I may not be as busy as other trucks, or the best chef in all the world, but I have a deep passion for health and the quality of food we put out. Plus, we make some pretty great eats! Organic does not mean diet food, and a pink truck does not mean that we only serve "girl" stuff. I don't give up in anything I do, and no, my truck is not for sale.
Rubinstein:Bite Me and A Bite Truck are two different trucks! Even though Keba has really nice hair like Alissa's, so I guess I can see how people make that mistake.
Learn more about Bite Me Foods at www.bitemefoods.biz.
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