By Alicia Wallace | Daily Camera
Boulder’s “Top Chef” has killed the ignition on the food-truck company he and a partner started last year.
Chef Hosea Rosenberg said he and other officials decided to shut down StrEat Chefs, a company launched last year to serve international street fare from an Airstream trailer. Rosenberg and business partner Laura Rice talked about taking the concept national through franchising, but the company’s acceleration was hindered by prohibitive regulations in Boulder, Rosenberg said.
“Our plan was big, it was robust and we had some grand aspirations with it,” he said. “Getting caught up with the start we got here in Boulder certainly stymied some of those plans.
“We still own the brand. We still own the trailer. But right now, it’s parked.”
In January, StrEat Chefs officials announced the business was on hiatus until the spring. Rosenberg — who is “in the works” of trying to open his own restaurant in Boulder — said the decision to shelve StrEat Chefs was incredibly difficult, but it seemed the best action primarily because of uncertainty with the city’s regulations.
Boulder’s municipal code right now makes it illegal to sell food from a vehicle. Food trucks such as Comida, Walnut-A-Go-Go and — until this winter — StrEat Chefs have been allowed to sell their food by obtaining permission to park their vehicles on private property and operating as “caterers.”
Next week, the Boulder City Council will discuss and potentially vote on newly proposed rules that would allow mobile food vehicles to operate in some of the city’s public spaces, said Molly Winter, director of Boulder’s Downtown and University Hill Management Division.
The proposed regulations — which do not apply to human-powered vending carts and ice cream trucks — would permit mobile food vehicles to apply to operate in the city’s right-of-way, on private property in industrial-zoned districts and as part of organized events such as the Boulder Creek Festival or block parties.
Under the proposed ordinance, the vehicles also could not operate within 100 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, 150 feet of residential districts and 200 feet of another food truck. The vehicles also would be allowed to operate only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and for no longer than four hours at a single location.
The vehicles would be allowed to operate on private property in commercial districts, but because of the urban nature of districts such as downtown, University Hill and north Boulder, available locations are “for the most part limited,” according to the proposal.
Rosenberg said the regulations moving forward are a little too restrictive and coming a little too late for StrEat Chefs.
“Being able to conduct this type of business in Boulder is pretty tough, and we had really hoped we would have more permission to be in downtown Boulder with the mobile vending,” he said. “Los Angeles and Portland and other cities are allowing it, and they’re permitting people. And I think Boulder will get there, and they’re not there yet.”
Operating a food truck is a tremendous amount of work, he added, noting that in a city the size of Boulder, “You really have to be where the crowds are.”
Rosenberg, who for five years served as the executive chef for Jax Fish House’s downtown Boulder location and was the winner of the fifth season of “Top Chef,” said he understands that mobile vendors should not unfairly poach from established brick-and-mortar operations. But he also said the two entities are not necessarily direct competition.
“Restaurants offer ambiance, service, alcohol, places you can sit, silverware. … The trucks offer quick, convenient, handheld food,” he said. “Now, having said that, if a taco truck pulls right up in front of Centro, I don’t think that’s fair.”