Last week, I started the weekly feature of “what to do/see/try/drink/eat” on the weekend, but while I was researching it, I realized there’s so much going on during the week that twenty-somethings need to know about, so this is the partner feature.
Do: If October has you in a spooky mood, the Tour Guys have the I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost! Tour, just for you. The walk takes you on a walk of a little over 2km telling ghost stories of haunted buildings as well as what ghost hunters have found. They claim that this tour is from everyone from believer to skeptic. It actually runs Thursday-Sunday until November 3rd but can count as a school night.The cost is $30 plus service fees.
See: Our Man in Tehran is playing at the TIFF lightbox. This is the story of Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador in Iran during the hostage crisis which began in 1979. This is the Canadian side of “Argo”, with a more realistic depiction of that Hollywood film.
Drink: It’s the last day of Toronto Cocktail Week so you can head down to the Drake Hotel TWC13 Industry Thank You Party where you can taste the winning cocktails from the Hogtown Shakedown competition and apparently, there’s some surprise entertainmment in store!
Eat: Kinton Ramen is a ramen noodle restaurant on Baldwin St, just off of Spadina, North of Dundas. They have a large selection of soups available and if you finish your dish, you become a KintonBowler. They have prizes for the number of Kinton Bowlers you accumulate, which range from free food to Kinton merchandise. Plus they have beer cocktails, I love beer cocktails.
If you’re one of Allen Tan’s almost 4,500 followers on Twitter, you know he is honest, has a great sense of humour and makes some delicious looking rice balls. He is the founder of Me.N.U and his engaging Twitter feed is fun and follows the journey of Allen building a food truck business, with no experience. His social media presence is great, so I had to find out more.
What has been the best experience to date?
Allen: The best experience has been learning what it takes to start a food business. It’s funny to say this because while in school I felt I was learning but it wasn’t exciting because I wasn’t “applying myself”. At my previous jobs I didn’t feel as though I was adding any value to the company. Now starting my own business – more energy in = more reward out.
Now I am learning everything it takes from the bottom up to start a food truck – marketing, menu development, operations, suppliers, execution, branding, sales, customer service. The more I learn and the more I apply I get to feel and see the reward. I have had the pleasure to learn from many food owners around the world what it takes to start a business. Now in the present, its one of the most exciting times to date. I can actively see myself getting closer to my vision of “success”.
What has been the biggest challenge in developing your truck?
Allen: The biggest challenge have been developing the recipes and processes for the food business. Without that research and development there would be no product to sell. You have to make sure that there is Value added while charging a price that generates a reasonable profit. Learning all of recipies and suppliers and know how took several weeks of practice. It came with a lot of highs and lows, a lot of mistakes but in the end each day we were getting better.
Currently, we have not priced out how much a food truck would cost – we are trying to develop our brand awareness before be take the next step. I believe that we should develop an audience and engage them before we make the big investment of owning a food truck. Why invest in a food truck and start from scratch when you can have an audience waiting for your food truck to launch?
|Me.N.U founder – Allen Tan|
What is something surprising you learned since you started your food truck journey?
Allen: I had the pleasure to job shadowed one food truck owner in Toronto name Fidel Gastro and I got to experience “A day in a life” with him. I didn’t know how hard food truck owners worked and he definitely showed me how hard running a food business could be. We started work at 6 am and didn’t end till 10 pm. We did prep, running around, set up, tear down, cleaning, catering, you name it we did it! It was a good look into my future, it definitely showed me how hard I would have to work in the future and how many things I still needed to learn. Throughout the day he instilled good habits that I would forever keep in my mind.
Your twitter and tumblr are very honest about your lack of experience and some of your mistakes – do you think this has fueled your success?
Allen: I think I have tried to do something very different then other food truck owners. I have started with no experience and my goal is to show others how to take an idea and turn it into a business. I have documented all my success and failures to share with everyone. I want to be very transparent with my business to share my journey and experience with anyone who is willing to listen.
I have read a lot of entrepreneur books and business books and they give you insight about things you need to know but the never really show you a step by step guide into how to do it. I am on a journey of SHOWING people how to start a food truck the RIGHT way.
What advice would you give new grads who have the same feelings you did about a 9-5?
Allen: Read books about business, passion and entrepreneurship. These books will give you a new perspective on how to break away from the social norm. They will show you there is more to life then a steady pay cheque and always being comfortable. Someone quoted, the three worst things in life are heroin, carbohydrates and a monthly pay cheque.
Turn off your TV and start investing time into something that will get you ahead in life. Self education is a huge part of my daily routine and once your studying for yourself and not for a piece of paper, you will see the world in a new light.
What’s the next step for ME.N.U?
Allen: My business partner and I are heading back to South East Asia where I learnt how to cook, however this time we are going to try to do Global food pop ups in Asia. We hope to create a story that no one has ever heard or seen in Toronto. After we get back we hope to buy a food truck and start selling to the masses of Toronto!
Can’t talk about your food without finding out, what’s been your favourite creation so far?
Allen: So far we have only sold one product, Fried Rice balls. There are a couple of recipes that are in research and development but I can’t release my secrets that are going to come in the near future.
|Me.N.U Fried Rice Balls|
I want to thank Allen for taking the time to speak with me so candidly. His enthusiasm is truly infectious. Be sure to follow him on Twitter to find out where you can get your next fried rice balls.
It’s Friday! Here is some ideas for your well-deserved weekend.
Because it’s almost the weekend.
I tried pumpkin ale many years ago and it wasn’t very good, so I was a little reluctant to try it again for my first thirsty thursday but I figured I had to because I feel uncool because I haven’t consumed enough pumpkin product this season (I haven’t had one pumpkin spice latte, ever).
This week’s selection is from a local brewery, Black Creek, located at Black Creek Pioneer Village.
Two movies this week! Crazy.
Tonight I went with my family to see “The Family”. The best way I could describe this movie is a critique of gangster movies but to be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure. I haven’t seen a lot of advertisements for it, the only time I remember seeing a trailer was at the beginning of a YouTube video and to be honest, I skipped it so I didn’t really know what to expect.
The movie stars Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfiefer and Tommy Lee Jones. There are a few other characters you’ll likely recognize but needless to say, this movie brings in some pretty big names. The movie starts violently, and we’re introduced to the family. Robert DeNiro is a gangster under witness protection, and his entire family, including the children are aware of the “business” he is in. The plot was a little weak, and there were only a couple of laughs, mostly at how ridiculous the situation or the dialog was. I often worry when I see gangster movies that its going to be overly violent, I hate unnecessary violence, I don’t need to see every gory detail to understand what happened so I was quite happy that this movie was fairly mild. Of course people are shot and there’s a few explosions but nothing too torturous that left me nauseous.
If you’re looking to watch the next Oscar worthy film, don’t go see “The Family”, I don’t think it will be up for any large awards anytime soon. This movie was fine for a Sunday afternoon, with a group of people who don’t often have a lot of movies they can enjoy together. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought in the comments, maybe you figured it out better than I did!
|fettuccine, with probably too much cheese but still so good|
|rice balls, this picture does not do the cheesy goodness justice|
As I will post about later this week, my friend and I are attending JFL this year. This show, we had about 4 hours to kill before so we went for dinner in the neighbourhood, Bloorcourt. I didn’t realize this was a specific neighbourhood but it was near Bloor and Ossington. You truly learn something new everyday.
We went to Disgraceland, at first we chose it because of the fun name, but then we read the menu and knew we had to try it. Its almost like a bar mixed with a diner. We ordered some beers, since we had some times and made the difficult decision of what to eat.
We started with the perogies, we got the works because… bacon and cheese. I was surprised how crispy the the outside was but they were still pretty good. I had the turkey club, which was delicious and mashed potatoes which were ok. My friend had the cheese and bean burrito with fries, I stole some fries and they were pretty good. They have a ton of poutine options and I’m sure they would have been great in that. They also had a lot of vegan or vegan possible options, for those interested, including vegan poutine. The best, and obviously most unnecessary part of the meal was the deep fried cupcakes. We were unsure of how they would deep fry a cupcake but we determined it was actually a ‘ding dong’. They also deep fry twinkies, but I never understood that treat. These ‘cupcakes’ were delicious. They came with two which was more than enough for us.
|A little dark, but the inside of delicious.|