Welcome back to People Like Us! Today, we’re featuring Eva Gross, or as she also likes to go by, E.W. Gross. Eva and I met when we were forced to be roommates while studying abroad in the Netherlands. Turns out that whoever is in charge of assigning roommates should also be matchmakers, because we became instant friends, and have been BFFs ever since!
While she majored in Writing, Literature and Publishing in college, Eva’s had a slew of unique jobs – from development associate at a legal center, a baker for thousands at a camp in Colorado, and a writer for a web series. And now she’s gracing us with her presence on Cookies + Sangria, sharing a fantastic story about working on a food truck in Los Angeles.
I’m a writer at heart and a baker by profession, which is a weird but fortuitous combination, as I’ve conveniently insulated myself from ever being a truly starving artist. Literally or metaphorically.
When I moved to Los Angeles in the fall to pursue a writing career, I naturally thought I could bake to pay the bills while I tried to trick important people into reading my screenplay (as I’ve been told is the way to fame).
Like many these days, I went through a long stretch of unemployment. I turned down a few jobs I maybe should have taken, including a graveyard shift baking job, and was at a point of sheer desperation when I stumbled upon an interesting Craigslist ad. It was for a pizza maker, experience with dough preferable. It wasn’t ideal but I was intrigued. Ok, their website was really cool. I judged the book buy it’s social media cover.
So I replied to the ad. We set up an interview with a small but important caveat: I was to meet the truck in a parking lot. TBD. I met them after the lunch rush in a company’s parking lot in Santa Monica. I had to pass a security guard who must have thought I was attempting some sort of heist when I couldn’t answer his simple question of where my interview was taking place.
Before long I found myself aboard The Urban Oven, a chalkboard clad gourmet pizza truck roaming the streets of Los Angeles in search of the perfect lunch crowd. On my first day we met along a stretch of street in front of the Variety building of Mid-Wilshire along with six or seven other food trucks. I was given a tour, which was quick for obvious reasons as there wasn’t more than seventeen feet worth of space to explain. I was also given the rundown on food truck culture.
And this is where it gets really interesting.
Turns out there is a tenuous bond between food truckers as both competition and brethren.
Precedent allows for a barter system called the “food swap,” an exchange of meals in good faith. I ate many a Vietnamese fusion sandwich, Bahn Mi and giant, chocolate-coated ice cream ball in payment for our pizza of the day.
My first day on the job I was also informed that more competitive trucks, in the eternal struggle for parking, would actually attempt to “nudge” another truck out of the way. Or at least just a tinsy bit forward so their own tail wasn’t in the red.
Then, of course, there’s life on board the actual truck. Things can get a little hectic when your work area is roughly the size of your own personal space. I was hit in the head with a pizza peel on more than one occasion. When it gets busy, pizza and people fly, bump and jostle each other in a commotion that from the outside can look a bit insane. It just somehow works.
Which is, of course, the basis of the food truck craze in general. It just works. The owners of these trucks risk their livelihood daily on location, parking and menu choices. They are in the unique position to serve the homeless and Jason Bateman alike. These passionate people are what make the food truck phenomenon irresistible. As Scott, the owner of The Urban Oven, says often “It’s the American dream in action.” I would add it’s the American dream reinvented, moving forward and sometimes even defying traffic.