It was not quite four years ago when Minnesota-based celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern rolled his brand new food truck onto the State Fairgrounds and began selling cabrito butter burgers and griddled veal tongue sliders at the great get-together.
In 2012 it felt like Zimmern's AZ Canteen was at the front of the food truck curve in the Twin Cities.
But now the truck is in Zimmern's rear view mirror and the Canteen's website advises visitors: "We are planning our next food adventure. Check back soon to see where we land."
Why didn't he keep on trucking?
Zimmern explained to Twin Cities Business that Minnesotans have a different relationship with their food trucks than eaters in other (warmer) places do.
For one thing, Zimmern said food truck season here only lasts about five months out of the year. For another, diners in the Twin Cities seem to turn to the trucks only at lunch time. "In Austin and LA and Seattle, they are all-day revenue generators," he told MinnPost. "If we were in SoCal we’d still have the truck.”
Zimmern also told the site a freestanding food truck not connected to a brick-and-mortar restaurant does not enjoy any economies of scale but is still subject to the vagaries of the weather, parking, and the competing trucks that happened to show up that day.
"Showing up at places with 15 trucks and 1,000 customers isn’t really profitable," he said.
Let's go to the game instead
While the website invites fans to "see where we land," it seems that AZ Canteen has already landed – at the ballpark. Several of them, actually.
Now Zimmern's taste for stadiums is leading him toward football.
In May he was introduced as one of the local chefs whose food will be served at the Vikings' new home, U.S. Bank Stadium. Zimmern will actually have two stands in the stadium. One is a partnership with Gavin Kaysen of Minneapolis' Spoon & Stable and will serve hoagies. The other, Zimmern says, will offer rotisserie meats.