On Saturday, June 30, Cheddar Truck owner Nick Watts' five-year dream of owning a food truck was about to become a reality. After months of preparation and scraping up $1,000, his mobile kitchen, dedicated to cheesy cuisine in the form of signature and build-your-own sandwiches (plus a clever little creation called Chedda Tots), made its debut from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, at Artistic Tattoo in Central Phoenix.
It was a disastrous success.
"My goal was to sell five sandwiches," Watts tells me. "But I ended up selling 172 in three hours. People were waiting in line for an hour to get a grilled cheese sandwich. I wouldn't wait an hour in line for a grilled cheese sandwich."
The response stunned the 33-year-old Watts, who'd never imagined his grilled cheese on wheels concept would be so popular. Plus, there was the stress of renting a truck whose refrigeration unit went out three times in 72 hours and having to hear angry customers yell at his wife, who was trying to help her husband on his debut night.
"I just want to say thank you to all that came out to welcome us. I apologize for everyone having to wait so long." Watts tweeted his followers after that evening. "First night on the truck." Then, as of Monday, "We are not going back out. Sorry."
Is this the first and the last the Valley will hear of the grilled cheese sandwich food truck?
Originally from New Hampshire, Watts spent four years working for restaurants in Colorado, where he developed a passion for cooking. When he came to the Valley in 2007, Watts spent time working in restaurants like BLT Steak, and with notable chefs like Payton Curry (then at Digestif), Justin Beckett of Beckett's Table, and Jeff Yankellow of the now-defunct Simply Bread.
"I learned so much from all of them," Watts tells me. "Payton taught me about using local ingredients, Jeff showed me the difference between bread and great bread, and I wanted to model my business after the way Justin did his. I even named some of my cheese sandwiches after these guys."
Wanting flawlessness with his food, Watts was unhappy with CheddaTrucks' debut, and says although the response was good, he needs to re-group before deciding to go back out again.
"I want CheddaTruck to be perfect. People deserve that," Watts tells me. "I need to get another truck, work on the menu, and find someone to share this dream with me."
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Watts says he'll most likely come back, but not for a few months. When he does, he says he'd like to return to his debut location, Artistic Tattoo. There, he tells me, he can introduce another idea he's been thinking about.
"I'd like to show cheesy '80s movies on a wall there," Watts says. "People can get a cheesy sandwich, something to drink, and then watch Spaceballs. I think they'd like that."