On June 30, 2012, Nick Watts' dream of owning his own food truck came true. And then, on the same day, it ended.
The 34-year-old, who has worked with notable chefs such as Payton Curry (Brat Haus), Justin Beckett (Beckett's Table), and Jeff Yankellow of the defunct Simply Bread, spent months developing CheddaTruck, his mobile kitchen specializing in signature and build-your-own grilled cheese sandwiches as well as a side dish called Chedda Tots.
On the night of the success/disaster, CheddaTruck made its debut to a huge (and unexpected) crowd at Artistic Tattoo in Central Phoenix. Watts sold nearly 175 sandwiches in three hours, but customers were angry at the wait time (over an hour) and many left or were turned away. The experience stunned Watts, and he closed up shop the next day, apologizing to customers on Twitter and saying he would return, but not without making some major changes.
And now, it seems, Watts is ready to ride again.
Watts tells me he's coming back in the next couple of months and changing CheddaTruck's concept from grilled cheese sandwiches to inventive burgers. He'll keep his Chedda Tots on the menu and add other sides like deviled eggs.
Focusing on local sourcing, Watts is planning on offering signature burger creations incorporating ingredients such as homemade chili, truffle cheese, and pastrami. He's also considering a patty melt made with Swiss cheese, purple cabbage, and beer-battered onions.
"With The Grilled Cheese Truck coming to Phoenix, I'm not sure the Valley needs another food truck selling grilled cheese sandwiches," Watts says. "I'd like to keep the name CheddaTruck since I'm still working with cheese, but another idea might be The Patty Wagon."
Watts tells me he's learned a lot since that night last summer (which he says he re-lives in his head everyday), and that this time around, he's better prepared. He's planning on extra people to help out and says he understands the importance of mise-en-place (the French phrase which means "everything in place") more than ever before.
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Where will CheddaTruck make its second maiden voyage? Watts says he's currently working another Valley food truck, Old Dixie's Southern Kitchen, on a few ideas. One is renting a warehouse and inviting a few food trucks to serve a four-course "meal" to fifty people.
"I can't say I'm not scared [to return] because I am, but it's like hiking a mountain," Watts tells me, "You've got to keep doing it until you can prove to yourself you can beat it."