We Love our Chicken Fried: Rachael Tremaine Talks The Cluck Truck
Posted on August 27, 2014
When Rachael Tremaine decided to open a food truck business, she brought Southern hospitality and a passion for home cookin’ to the streets of Denver. I had a chance to sit down with Rachael to see how The Cluck Truck came to be, where it’s going, and what makes her chicken so finger lickin’ good.
Rachael Moyte: How did your upbringing influence your cooking style?
Rachael Tremaine: Well, everything on my menu is pretty much Southern comfort food. My grandmother was a great cook and my mom is still a great cook. I remember watching my grandma make fried chicken and she’d shake it in a paper bag, she’d soak it in buttermilk. So just coming out to Colorado, there’s nothing really out here with a big Southern influence. There are a couple of places but there’s not a lot and I just thought that there was a good opportunity for it out here. Plus, I love it.
RM: There are food trucks that don’t always take the extra step of making things from scratch. You make everything from scratch. How does that separate you and make you unique?
RT: I don’t know any other way, honestly. I can’t speak for other food trucks, but I can’t imagine serving frozen items or something that is not from my heart. Being from the South, that’s how we show people we love them. It’s a Southern thing, I mean we cook from our heart and we cook from our soul. I can’t imagine serving something that’s not authentic and true to who I am. That’s just the bottom line.
RM: What challenges did you face when first getting The Cluck Truck off the ground? What are some challenges in finding customers?
RT: The thing is, something I always wanted to do was open a chicken finger place and this just seemed like the logical step. It wasn’t what I expected, like most things. It’s a lot of work first of all and it takes you a long time to get established. There are probably at least 400 food trucks in Denver and finding that right place to go is key. I was getting discouraged in the beginning because I would go to places and not make any money.
You can’t get discouraged though. You just have to be out there. People kept saying, “you have to be out there, you have to be out there”. Once I did, it took one person to give me a chance which was Strange Craft Brewery. Ever since they let us come in there and gave us an every Friday spot, other breweries have started talking about us and having us down [at their locations]. It’s just, you’ve got to be persistent and just know it’s hard work. It’s not exactly what you think it is but it’s so rewarding when people come up to you and tell you it’s the best food they’ve ever had, and you have a following. You put your heart into it and you know, hopefully it’ll work out. That’s what I’m hoping for.
As far as finding customers goes, it’s kind of been word of mouth really. Being consistent, being on time, don’t cancel last minute. I found out that a lot of food trucks, I don’t know who, but a lot of trucks have been kind of flaky. If you’re consistent and on time and serve good food, people are gonna want to have you back. People are going to talk. You know, because of Strange Brewery, we’ve gotten picked up at Epic Brewery’s Denver location every other Sunday, Wit’s End, and Odyssey Beerwerks.
RM: What role has social media played in getting the word out about The Cluck Truck?
RT: Social media is a huge part of it. We’re starting to get some followers and it’s just huge. That’s exactly how we let people know where we’re gonna be. We’re mostly on Facebook but we’re gonna start using Twitter as well. We’re also thinking about doing the text thing, where we just send out a text blast to everyone who is signed up to let them know where we’re gonna be.
RM: What are some of the go-to kitchen tools that you use?
RT: I use my fryer first and foremost. Pretty much everything on The Cluck Truck is fried. I do use a flat top grill but that’s pretty much what I use. I’m actually looking at possibly getting another fryer in there.
RM: This is something that caught my eye when I looked at your menu. Tell me more about the Po’ Dawg. Where did this come from?
RT: This is a great question because it is very personal. When I was a kid, my mom and my dad looked in the fridge and what was in the fridge was some hot dogs, some potatoes and some cheese. They came up with this idea to take the hot dog and cut it down the middle, you know, butterfly it. Then make some homemade mashed potatoes and put that down the middle and top it with some cheese, then bake it in the oven. It was absolutely my favorite thing in the world to eat for my whole life. Even in college, I’d come home and like I said, my mom is a great cook, but she’d ask me what I wanted to eat and I’d say the hot dog, mashed potatoes and cheese.
I wanted to figure out how I could serve this on The Cluck Truck because obviously I don’t have an oven that I could bake it in. So I just came up with this idea to wrap it in an eggroll wrapper and deep fry it. You know I deep fry everything, basically. It just works. My mom called it “The Poor Man’s Supper”, so my friend was like “Call it the Po’ Dawg!”
It’s definitely original and you can’t find it anywhere else. It’s delicious.
RM: What do you love about owning a food truck and how is it different than owning a brick and mortar shop?
RT: I love being able to do something that I’m passionate about. I love to cook for people. I have always loved to cook for people at my house. But it’s different when your friends tell you they love your food as opposed to when a complete stranger comes up, put a little extra money in your tip jar and tells you it’s the best fried chicken they’ve ever had. I love making my own schedule and I love being my own boss. Starting up my own business and watching it grow.
As far as brick and mortar, who knows? It’s something I have been thinking about. One thing I think would be different with a brick and mortar is that I could be more creative with the menu. In a food truck, you only have so much space; you only have so much time. I think I could be more creative and I have a lot of ideas. I would love to do regular fried chicken, not just chicken tenders. I would love to do theme nights, or different days of the week do different specials, chicken pot pies, pot roasts, you know anything Southern. But I can’t really do that on a food truck so a brick and mortar spot would allow me to do that.
RM: What can you tell me about the famous Cluck Sauce?
RT: It’s hard to describe. People often ask me to explain what it tastes like and it’s creamy, kind of tangy, a little peppery, and not spicy. It’s hard to describe but it goes so perfect with the chicken. I have people try to guess what’s in it and it’s obviously a secret. I’m not telling anybody. But, if you haven’t tried it you have to come out and try it. The chicken with the Cluck Sauce, it’s good. It’s something that once you taste it, you know it’s Cluck Sauce.
RM: Going into the New Orleans Cluck Truck and the Denver Cluck Truck, will we see a standoff?
RT: Who knows? I mean, I’m not one to back down from a challenge, especially a culinary challenge. I’m not specialized in New Orleans cuisine. I love it. And yeah I would do it. Is that something you’re setting up?
RM: *laughs* We might have to set up the FSW Cluck Truck Challenge!
The Cluck Truck in Your Neighborhood
If you’ve got a hankerin’ for some delicious grub, follow The Cluck Truck on Facebook for updates on locations and times. You don’t want to miss out on this Southern girl’s famous chicken!