On a wing and a prayer….(mostly wings though)
by Alexander Quebec
Sometimes, we can’t rely on timing to make a decision, we have to sometimes take a leap of faith and make the jump into that place others can’t, or won’t, take. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with an owner who did just that.
John Paul “JP” Victor is co-owner of the West Wing Food Truck which specializes in buffalo wings with flavor profiles inspired by classic wing joints as well a few inspired by the flavors of The Philippines (where his family is originally from)
“I was working in tech for a little over ten years and I needed a change, a new way to make money instead of in a cube, at the same time my brother in law just finished culinary school and he was doing a few jobs here and there, but he didnt feel like he enjoyed it, so we were talking and we got together every weekend and barbequed, we did a a lot of grilling and cooking, so thats how our bond for food came about. So I just threw it out to him and my mom, whose also a cowner, and we came up with this idea to start a food truck. I had a lot of friends who were already food truck owners so i had a lot of people to get advice from so that kinda gave me the confidence to finally start it, so we were test kitchening and doing trials of food for over a year while we were trying to get a food truck built.”
“So why chicken wings?” I asked
“We wanted to do a wing truck, something that was more unique in the south bay. We knew that there were a few wing trucks, but they were based in the north bay.”
“For some reason, none of us watched the show west wing, it’s not based off the tv show, (he wanted to make that part very clear) we figure we’re on the west coast, we’re doing wings, that’s why we’re called the west wing, wings that represent the west coast.”
With a bold, yellow typeface placed against a solid black background, the truck stands in stark contrast to the oftentimes colorful and vibrant food trucks that usually park next to it. The simple color scheme of the truck, however, underscores the seriousness of which JP and his team have for perfecting their craft. All in all, they let the food do the talking.
“We knew we wanted to do flavors that were very inviting, and I knew that a flavor that was very popular among different groups of people was a salt and pepper wing, something crunchy and simply seasoned in case someone doesn’t know what to get.”
JP continues ”We also wanted to show that we wanted to be welcome to an american palate, so we wanted to do a hot wing, but our own flavor, not just a buffalo or a sriracha wing, we accomplished with our hot honey wing and won an award for it. We were pretty surprised that we won that one, ghost of sriracha, that’s on our secret menu.
Garlic parmesan,that’s another flavor, an american flavor that will bring people something that’s familiar.
We’ll rotate a few flavors in and out. We’ll bring in random flavors like BBQ sauce or garlic pepper too”
It is quite apparent the “The adobo glaze is probably the most aligned with our ethnicity” Victor mentioned to me, a nod to his Filipino heritage.
“We also offer rice plates and sandwiches mainly to the lunch crowd that you don’t see too much”
I’ve actually had the opportunity to try their wings in the past. I’ve actually enjoyed the unique flavor combinations they create, and I can confirm that they do switch it up a bit when it comes to the flavors, I don’t see them that often, but when I do, I always notice something different on the menu. I’m more of a traditional wings person myself, so their interpretation of the old school wing is the way to go.
Something more fulfilling
From my experience interviewing many chefs and restaurant owners, most don’t go into the business for the money. The long hours, crowds of customers and razor thin margins might make anyone squeamish enough to want to look elsewhere for opportunities. For those with the mental and physical fortitude, however, the food and dining industry is truly rewarding.
Like many who grew up here in San Jose as the children of immigrants , JP took the typical Silicon Valley route of working for one of the high tech companies in the area. “I went to school, got my degree in computer engineering from SJSU, started working in tech, but I never found my groove.” He continues ”I was always djing on the side, cooking on the side, and i felt like that what i was doing in a cube was pointless, I felt like the first 10 years I felt that doing repetitive stuff wasn’t for me.”
He continued with this observation “I was leaving a 6 figure income, and im not making anything on this truck. What people realize in tech, especially in Silicon Valley, you get used to the money, once you get used to the money, then you start looking for something else, something more fulfilling for your life.”
As for the future of West Wings, I allow JP to explain “I feel like that this is the entry level to something bigger, a brick and mortar [restaurant], potentially selling some of our recipes.”
No one said that the American dream of owning your own business would be easy, but for many entreprenuers out there like JP, at the end of the day, they know that all of the hard work is worth it.
All photos are from the West Wing Truck Facebook page
Have you been to West Wing Food Truck? Already a fan? Do you know someone we should have at the table? Leave us a comment below