Grand Forks, ND: A MODERN KITCHEN – Ex-Sergeant Cooks Up Hot Dish on Wheels

Scott "Skip" Haag, owner of Skip's Gourmet Grub, serves up lunch to workers in the Grand Forks Industrial Park on Thursday. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

By Ryan Schuster | Grand Forks Herald

Scott "Skip" Haag, owner of Skip's Gourmet Grub, serves up lunch to workers in the Grand Forks Industrial Park on Thursday. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

Food trucks are not exactly known for producing gourmet fare.

Scott ‘Skip’ Haag is out to change that.

Haag and his wife, Rita, own Skip’s Gourmet Grub food truck, which has been operating in Grand Forks, mostly in the Cirrus parking lot, for the Past year.

“It’s not your typical roach coach,” Scott Haag said. “The quality of the food that comes out of the truck is very high. Everything is made from scratch.”

He said his is the only privately owned state- and county-certified full-scale mobile food truck he knows of in the area. He contrasts his rig to the smaller, item-specific vehicles that sell tacos and other fare in town.

Haag, 50, prepared lunch for a customer last week inside the fully equipped truck as he talked about his business model.

“You can actually get a full meal from us,” he said. “We try to keep everything we serve under or around the $5 mark. You can get an entrée, soup and a beverage for $8 to $9.”

His rotating menu includes pulled pork, BBQ chicken, buffalo chicken sandwiches, beef tips, fajitas, tater tot hot dish, soups and potato and macaroni salads. Haag said he tries to provide customers with something familiar, while adding unexpected touches such as coleslaw served on top of sandwiches.

Skip’s Gourmet Grub can be found parked in the Cirrus lot in the Grand Forks Industrial Park from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Haag also provides mobile concessions for local festivals and the Haags cater weddings and other events.

The Haags plan to continue during the winter, perhaps cutting back to two days a week. Last year, they operated throughout the winter and only had to shut down four days when temperatures exceeding 17 below stopped propane flowing to the truck’s fuel tanks.

The former first sergeant was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base from 1993 to 1999 and returned here after retiring from the military in 2004.

Haag regularly prepared steak and baked potatoes for squadron fundraisers while he was stationed in Alaska. He catered events with his wife for five years before branching out into the food truck.

“I have a passion for food and people,” he said. “It just made sense to me to put the two together.”

Two years ago the couple began a business plan. They found a Florida concessions trailer manufacturer that built and customized the $65,000 truck.

Haag said Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race TV” show has helped draw business.

“That kind of helped people with the curiosity to see what kind of food could come out of a mobile unit,” he said.

What they take in during their three days in the industrial park takes care of basic expenses. Catering and special events revenue helps pay down loans for the truck and other startup expenses.

The industrial park made sense for its large number of employees and lack of nearby restaurants. Haag contacted park businesses to gauge interest and got permission from Cirrus to use their lot.

Business has grown, he said, mostly by word-of-mouth. Haag estimates he has 65 to 70 regular weekly customers.

“It’s different than what you usually get in a restaurant and it’s cheap,” said Dwight Wigness. He doesn’t work in the industrial park, but said he usually visits the truck twice a week to grab lunch. “There is always something good to eat. After people try it, they come back, and they usually bring more people with them.”

His truck gives people convenient access to an affordable lunch option, Haag said.

“We’re filling a niche that’s needed,” he said. “We’re not out here to make millions. We’re out here to serve people.”

“If we make millions, that’s OK, too,” Rita Haag said, with a laugh.

http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/217923/