If you haven’t heard of Dusty Buns Bistro then you must not have heard of the Internet because it’s nearly impossible to find a twitter feed that doesn’t mention them every week (one recent retweet read, “Happy Dusty Buns Thursday Everyone!”). If you haven’t had the chance to eat Dusty Buns Bistro fare then you must have unfortunate dietary restrictions that don’t allow you to ingest good food. If that’s the case, I’m very sorry.
No really, very sorry.
I’m a weekly It’s On Wishon regular who has way-more-than-once stood in line for an hour just to get a Veg Out sandwich (a wonderfully soft and lightly toasted dusty bun currently – as they cook seasonally – filled with honey roasted beets, goat cheese and pea shoots. What? I know!).
With the threat of the city of Fresno shutting down the gourmet food truck fun, we need to support Dusty Buns Bistro now more than ever so they can keep on truckin’. I asked the ridiculously cute couple behind Dusty Buns Bistro to answer a few questions so that their fans could learn a bit more, the curious can read what all the fuss is about, and the naysayers can shut up and eat.
Who are the masterminds behind Dusty Buns Bistro?
Dustin and Kristin Stewart
(Love in Sequoia National Park)
You guys are super adorable! I’m going to be nosy, how did you meet?
Randomly both moved into a communal house in Long Beach. Dustin moved from Ohio to California, and Kristin was finishing a Bachelors degree in Fine Art.
How did find your way to Fresno?
Kristin was born in Dinuba and her family is in Visalia. We’ve been looking to have our own small thing and found the perfect opportunity while visiting family!
How did you come up with the name Dusty Buns?
A comical approach to our favorite bread and nickname created the perfect product name to represent our vintage concept of quality.
Why a food truck and not a traditional brick & mortar restaurant?
We’re always inspired by traveling in our Winnebago, supporting farmers and shopping at markets. The mobile truck connected these and challenged us to do something besides tacos. After managing a few brick and mortars we learned how to apply a full kitchen menu to a limited kitchen with “bistro fare.”
The truck is awesome! Where did you find it?
Selma! It was previously “Pinky’s Taco Truck” and was bright pink!
Do you think Fresno is ready for food trucks in the same way Portland OR, or Los Angeles are? Have you hit any road blocks? (Ugh, at first I said “speed bumps” and didn’t like the pun, but “road blocks” is just as bad. Go with it!)
Fresno is definitely ready to start the process of peacefully incorporating this new concept into the economy. Our advantage is that Fresno is covered in taco trucks and has other cities’ experiences to consider when exploring new regulations. Road blocks were put up in the beginning because we were a new type of food truck with no clear rules of how to sell to the public. We managed to start up in the grey area until the city agreed to help make new and fair regulations for all parties.
What does a work day entail for the two of you? What does it take to prepare for your regular stops at Kaiser Farmers Market and It’s On Wishon?
Shopping is twice a week on farmers market days. Prep for each day out is between 6-8 hours. Kristin bakes scratch breads and sweets non-stop while setting up for service. Dustin is constantly picking through this week’s produce & creating the full menu from scratch…all in the BUS (Mobile Preparation Unit). The bus is always parked at our Commissary (Brick n Mortar) food service facility where we pay rent to store, dump, fill-up, cook etc…
So you guys cater, too! Are these private parties? Corporations? Can I hire Dusty Buns to park at my birthday party this summer?
Well we love to do different events so we consider everything, but the city has not approved residential area catering quite yet. If there is a public park, event hall, or permitted event, we purchase appropriate day permits depending on each event & city requirements. We can also feed employees on private company parking lots like traditional taco trucks.
How do you decide what will be on the menu?
We try to keep the main, traditional proteins set so you can expect a basic flavor profile for each item. The farmers market decides all spreads, garnishes, toppings, soup, salad, and many other elements including dessert. We try to incorporate our Mexican and Italian heritage with our French education and our Fresno flavors!
How important is it to you to use seasonal and organic ingredients?
VERY! We are always trying to be 100% local, seasonal, and organic; and while we are almost there we’re working with farmers and Whole Foods Market to see if we can go all the way! We believe organic food should be called regular food and other food should get additional tax and have pesticide labels!
(Second Place at Bee My Honey Fest)
Do you have any favorite local eateries? Any places you are curious about?
Definitely, Charlotte’s (they make their own bread too!) La Reina Ice Cream (they make their own ice cream), Max’s and Cracked Pepper for their chef-driven team and menus. We’re excited about anyone bringing something new to Fresno and being conscious about their products and where they come from.
Do you have favorite ingredients you like to work with?
Ooooooooohhhhhhh…all the local heirloom veggie varietals summer tomatoes blow our minds with their Frankenstein stitches and tie-dye colors.
How much experimentation happens?
40% of what we do is experimentation. We’re always incorporating new flavor combinations and switching up elements like citrus (acids,) fats, grains, and proteins to give an ever changing menu of comfort foods.
Can you break down a recipe for us?
Our seasonal granola – a household favorite.
The Magical Control – granola glue (local honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt) & toasted oats,
and seasonal/local variable-nuts, dried fruits, and seeds.
How many buns do you think you have made since you arrived in Fresno?
Lots of practice buns and lots that didn’t sell in the beginning, but probably +/-5,000!!
What is your ideal food assembly soundtrack?
Since we started it’s been the same five – Bob Marley, Tom Petty, Grateful Dead, Strange Vine (local) Billie Holiday. Got to keep it smooth when you’re making slow foods!
Which famous person would you like to cook for and why?
Oprah so she stops representing KFC! But really Obama, because we’re inspired by his character in against-the-odds situations. Anyone who doesn’t morally crack under the public eye should be well fed.
Do you have a professional cook who inspires you?
Alice Waters because of her devotion to simple preparation and focus on the importance of the whole ingredient! Also Mike Weller (head chef of California Culinary Academy) inspired us not settle for less than what we believed in.
What do you guys do when you’re not slinging dusty buns?
All free time is spent with our dogs enjoying God’s green earth! (big dog – Sunny, little dog – Kushi)
What do YOU eat for dinner?
Dusty scraps, or tonight- quinoa primavera (local organic veggies sautéed with tomato paste and cream), green salad with Cowgirl Creamery Gouda, evoo, and some kind of vinegar. Three Twins organic ice cream for dessert.
How does it feel to have such an overwhelming response from folks? Did you ever imagine that so many people would be willing to stand in line for an hour to eat your food?
It feels incredible!! When the city told us we would have to have a line of bona fide customers to stay in one place we said, “Oh no! That’s impossible!!” But go figure, we didn’t give up and God provided an incredibly supportive community.
There’s been talk of the city of Fresno shutting you down, what can fans of Dusty Buns do to support you?
It’s good to be persistent and send peaceful letters to the city so they know what the public wants. Also stay up with other cities’ food truck events and food network trends to spread the word on how it improves the local economy. It’s always best to follow up and show our thanks when the city does react on our behalf.
What’s the future of Dusty Buns? Do you plan to snag additional regular stops, or add another truck?
We hope to continue our family-run Dusty Buns with one truck and more future stops. Instead of franchising we hope to inspire other small family-owned businesses to spring up with local slow foods so we all have more options to feed our souls.
You can catch Dusty Buns Bistro every week at:
The Kaiser Permanente Farmers Market at Fresno and Alluvial on Wednesdays 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.