Foodie Cart Brings Japanese Crepes to Columbus
The Summer of 2010 may officially be known as the Summer of the Food Carts thanks to a wide variety of sidewalk dining options that have exploded over the past few months. One unique offering that has quickly gained a loyal following is “Foodie Cart”, which owners Kenny Kim & Misako Ohba created to serve Japanese-style crepes to Columbus diners.
We recently caught up with Kenny for a quick Q&A about their new business venture and to find out how it’s been going for them so far.
Q) Where did the idea and inspiration come from to open a food cart?
A) I worked all over the place in Columbus and I would always get super bored wherever I worked. I had good ideas, but business owners like doing things their own way, so there was no creative outlet for me. I was also concerned about how some restaurants adapted so slowly to necessary change. Basically, you are forced to ride this sinking ship of bad ideas because your boss said so. I also saw the ridiculous restaurant overhead that traditional restaurants have to deal with. I thought the food cart would be a great solution. I decided to make a crepe cart with my friend Melissa and then switched partners to work with my wife Misako, who just quit her job. We decided that regular crepes weren’t exciting or tasty enough and we opted for the Japanese-style crepe. We felt that the Japanese-style crepes would be more original and have more longevity. It’s also way harder to make, which buys us some time before another Japanese-style crepe cart appears. Also, my wife and I spent zero time together because of long restaurant hours and thought it would be nice to hang out more.
Q) Can you tell us a bit about your and Misako’s backgrounds?
A) Misako’s family is from Sendai, Japan. Her parents own this rad pear farm where they grow these immaculate pears. She worked in a restaurant in Tokyo for eight years and also went to Vantan Pastry School. She came to the U.S. on a work visa and that’s when we met. We always joke about her marrying me for a visa and she always says, “Tokyo is not a place I am trying to run away from”. I was born in Anahiem, California and moved to Columbus shortly after. My parents came to the U.S. from South Korea and took a stab at the American Dream. I used to question my parents about moving here from California and I just assumed they were running from debt or some funny business was going on. I grew up in Worthington and I went to OSU for six and a half years until I got kicked out for having bad grades. I started out there studying business, then communication, then film and music, and then I ended my scholastic journey with Sociology. I was working two jobs and DJing three or four nights a week and school was pushed to the side. I started cooking just to make some money and eventually started to take it more seriously and i started to love it. I’ve worked at Northstar Cafe, Mama Mimi’s, Mitchell’s Steakhouse, Shoku, Dragonfly, Kogen’s, Moshi Sushi, Haiku, Sulan, Ember’s in Cincinatti, Grandview Cafe, and I am probably forgeting a few others.
Q) Crepes originated in France but seem to have become quite popular in Japan recently. Can you tell us what the difference is with Japanese Crepes?
A) The main difference in ours crepes is the thickness and the texture. The crepes are way thinner and they are kind of crispy when served hot. There is more to it, but don’t want to get all technical.
Q) What sort of sweet crepes have your customers enjoyed the most so far?
A) Green Tea Tiramisu (macha) with/Strawberry, Kabocha Pumpkin Pie w/Ohio Corn, No-Bake Cheese Mousse w/Blueberry Merlot Sauce & Thin Almond Cookies, Baked Pineapple Fuji-Apple w/Cinnamon and Custard, White Peach and Mango, White Peach Shortcake, and my memory stops there… I’m probably forgetting a few other good ones.
Q) What sort of savory crepes have your customers enjoyed the most so far?
A) The Lemon Pork Belly w/Kiwi Jalapeno, Jerk-Kalbi Short Rib, Boursin Veggie Egg, Bacon Okonomiyaki, Oyako Chicken, Salmon Avocado Salad w/Wasabi Mayo, Ahi Tuna Salad, Stewed Curry Pork w/Piblantro Dressing, Sesame Chicken w/Bean Sprout Salsa, Garlic Truffle Mash w/Salty Caramel Corn, Prociutto-Fresh Mozz w/Anchovie-Garlic Evoo, and quite a few others… we have too many ideas for us to keep a consistent menu. We like the revolving menu.
Q) You’re using Twitter & Facebook to share information about locations & specials each day. Is this working well so far?
A) You bet your sweet ass it’s working! I would say that at least 50% of our customers are from Facebook and Twitter if not more. Thanks free media!
Q) What locations seem to work the best so far?
A) It seems like Facebook and Twitter have taken care of our location problems. People usually come out to all parts of Columbus equally.
Q) Any other advice to offer to anyone thinking about opening any sort of food cart or food truck in Columbus?
A) Yes. The more fresh, authentic and creative, the better. Listen to your customers and don’t wait too long to change when something isn’t working. Also, keep it exciting. People get sick of even their favorite foods, so don’t over-do things. Also, keep healthy options. It shows that you care about your people. Keep it fun for yourself and your customers… it makes the food taste better. Last, but not least, don’t skimp on quality. If you are short on money, try to make other aspects of your business more efficient. Don’t be one of those places that started off great and then lower food quality or jack up prices to make up for a poor business model.