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Sep 21, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Ask the Chef: David Choi

January 3rd 09:01am, 2013



Seoul Taco co-owner David Choi built his food truck into one of the city’s most popular, then took a wild leap and opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant with the same name in The Loop this past fall. He still hits the road, though. In fact, one of his prize gigs is feeding the St. Louis Rams – a group whom he said can really put it away.

What did you do before you bought a food truck? [Co-owner] Andy [Heck] and I had to quit our jobs. I was a valet attendant at St. Mary’s Hospital, and Andy was in mortgages. I had just saved for six months to buy a car, and then to buy the truck, I had to sell it! We had to go to the East Coast to get the truck; we finally found it in Philadelphia. It used to be a Philly cheesesteak wagon.

I imagine you use Seoul Taco’s new brick-and-mortar location’s kitchen to prep everything for the truck each day? Yes, that was one of the main purposes of getting the brick-and-mortar location, to cater the truck. Our truck is parked right behind the store. Tomorrow we’re catering for the St. Louis Rams, and we need a commissary available at all times for things like that. We cater for them once or twice a month. We make a huge buffet for them. They eat tons of food. It’s ridiculous. (Laughs) We have bowls they can make on their own with all three barbecued meats we offer, and taco shells, too. They all love the Seoul Sauce. They call it “the moneymaker.” What’s in the Seoul Sauce? Mayonnaise is the base, and there are three other ingredients to make it spicy. I can’t tell you what those are – after all, it’s “the moneymaker”!

Do you have a larger menu at the restaurant than on the truck? Yes, physically we probably have the smallest truck in St. Louis. It’s hard to expand from what we do now on the truck, with the space we have. But in our restaurant we have a new burrito with kimchi-fried rice, your choice of meat, scallions, carrots, two specialty sauces, sour cream and cheese. You can also get a side of kimchi-fried rice. We want to expand the menu more, with possibly more Korean foods.

I understand your Korean bulgogi marinade is a family recipe? I learned it from my mom, and my grandma came in and tweaked it too. And then I doctored it from my tastings, too.

What did you do before you bought a food truck? [Co-owner] Andy [Heck] and I had to quit our jobs. I was a valet attendant at St. Mary’s Hospital and Andy was in mortgages. I had just saved for six months to buy a car, and then, to buy the truck I had to sell it! We had to go to the East Coast to get the truck; we finally found it in Philadelphia. It used to be a Philly cheese steak wagon.

What is in the Seoul Sauce? Mayonnaise is the base, and there are three other ingredients to make it spicy. I can’t tell you what those are. It’s “the moneymaker”!

Like bibimbap? Our Gogi Bowl basically is bibimbap.

You must have so many college students who come to your restaurant, right there in the heart of the Loop. Absolutely, that was the main reason we moved into this spot. We had already built up a Wash U. clientele with the truck. The foot traffic here is unparalleled in the city, too.

I hear you often have longest line at Food Truck Friday. That’s correct, from what I hear, but usually my back is turned – I’m looking at the grill for four hours straight!

What sort of wild adventures have you had while working in the truck? We used to park in front of the Library Annex club on weekend nights and we would see the craziest stuff – a lot of people stumbling over. We had one guy stumble down the steps and then right into the truck and proceed to order a taco. You see some crazy things.

What was it like choosing a design for the exterior of the truck? At first I just wanted it to look like a Korean Air airplane (http://www.airlinereporter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Korean-A380-2-5-11.jpg) which is sky blue, but then a buddy designed it, and that was a better look.

Does the truck have a name, like Bertha or Big Daddy? Yes! We call it “Little Blue.”

I understand you have plans to buy a second food truck? Yes. Once we get established at the brick-and-mortar location we might expand into another truck for St. Louis, or maybe other prospective cities.

You must have a dependable system worked out for where to park the truck each day. At our regular places we now know our regular customers by their names, so it’s hard to go to other spots when people are counting on us, but we do switch it up sometimes. We tell everyone what we’re doing on Facebook and Twitter, of course – and because of Facebook and Twitter we haven’t had to spend too much money on advertising.

What’s going on now with issues regarding where you park? I understand there has been a problem with Clayton and Wash U.? Right now the city of Clayton is preventing us from parking on the Clayton side of Wash. U. It’s a bummer because we’ve been working with the Catholic Student Center since it opened. Our deal was, we parked on their property, and we donated money to their annual international student trips. But for the time being, that’s all suspended. We thought the city didn’t have jurisdiction on Wash. U.’s private property, but I guess we were wrong.

This isn’t a question, but congratulations on being named one of the best food trucks in the country by the Daily Meal. Thank you!

571 Melville Ave, U. City, 314.863.1148, seoultacostl.com, track the truck on Twitter @SeoulTaco

— photo by Amy Shromm

By Byron Kerman

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