The business: Aji Mobile Foods
What you need to know: Father and son Joe and Giancarlo Alarcon run a food truck with a diverse Ecuadorean and pan-Latin American menu that rotates weekly. A given week could see empanadas res prepared Argentinian style, Peruvian grilled chicken sandwich and a steak sandwich perfected by Giancarlo's mother. Latin American foods, Ecuadorean specifically, are fairly rare in the Valley so this may be your only chance to sample some of their staple dishes.
The story: "If I'm going to put in 150%, I might as well do it for me and my family," said Joe. Prior to starting Aji Mobile with his son, Joe was a Wells Fargo mortgage underwriter. Health problems and the economic downturn convinced Joe not only to retire but to take his retirement and invest it in his son's cooking. His son, Giancarlo, is an ASU and culinary school graduate who originally wanted to study Italian cooking in Italy but decided to focus on this food truck so he could realize his dream of owning his own business.
Find out what aji is, after the jump.
Where the name came from: Ecuadorean food is traditionally mild so spice is provided by aji sauce. Aji is a chimichurri like sauce that is composed of chilies, garlic, cilantro and onions. It is quite popular because, as Joe says, "It goes on everything."
What inspires the food: Giancarlo said that most of his early cooking experience came from his grandfather who insisted on the preparation of three course meals. While his grandfather inspired him to get into cook, Giancarlo said that he draws inspiration for recipes from elsewhere in his family. Aji Mobile's La Guaya steak sandwich is a perfect example of this as it is based on a marinade and preparation of his mother's devising.
The hardest part of getting started: As with so many food trucks, the hardest part of getting started is cutting through the mountains of red tape to get a food truck. Giancarlo said it was particularly frustrating to deal with three levels of regulation and taxes: State, county and city. He agrees that many of the policies and regulations are there for a reason and serve to protect people but the layers of regulation make it particularly hard starting out. Using the city of Phoenix as an example, he expressed his frustration with their draconian parking regulations. Basically, food trucks are prevented from parking in any one spot for more than an hour. Permits to park longer can run up to a thousand dollars or more and he would still be prohibited from working the busiest sections of downtown.