Hudson, NY: Tortillaville Cook’s Book Dishes on Food Truck Business

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By Joe Gentile | Hudson-Catskill Newspapers

John Mason/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers Tortillaville
John Mason/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers

In his debut novel, “Food Truck 411: The Essential Information to Run a Successful Food Truck,” Brian Branigan describes life inside the box as the Tortillaville owner-operator unwraps the industry’s allure.

“I’m really talking to my readers as a mentor,” Branigan said. “I’m very aware there are people behind both sides of the counter.”

Branigan’s book claims to be the first of its kind, giving readers flavorful anecdotes, and more than 30 recipes, straight from the mouth of an actual food truck cook.

Partners Branigan and Allison Culbertson happened upon Hudson’s Tortillaville five years ago, Branigan said, after the couple had suffered several recession-related setbacks. The two had lost vOID, their SoHo multimedia lounge bar of eight years, that Culbertson opened at the age of 25. Their landlord had decided to sell the property, Branigan said.

The couple then relocated upstate, and started up a design studio on Warren Street called Hudson Design. Culbertson kept a gallery as Branigan shot film for real estate agencies and the Chronogram.

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“We did find little pieces for several years,” Branigan said. “However, we needed to find a more sturdy Plan B.”

Plan B, Branigan said, came for them at a stoplight in the form of a shiny lunch counter. Branigan referred to the encounter as their stop at the intersection of chance and hope.

“It’s that strong of a visual,” Branigan said, “And the community is its cast.”

Through Branigan’s unique, first-person narrative, “Food Truck 411” delves into the dynamics of a food truck’s relationship to its town. Hudson, Branigan said, has its very own chapter.

“Food trucks create a community in communities,” Branigan added.

Some city residents, Branigan said, have told him that Tortillaville represents summer to them.

However, Branigan also claimed “Food Truck 411” dismisses romanticized notions about food trucks. In such a tight space, Branigan said chefs are liable to bump and burn themselves while on display to their customers.

“If it discourages as many people as it encourages, its done its job,” Branigan said.

Branigan hoped the book’s contents might save aspiring vendors the time and money they might have otherwise invested. Some cooks have a five or seven-year mindset, whereas others do it for a year and burn out, Branigan said. Regardless, Branigan revealed “Food Truck 411” discusses ways of keeping the pressure off.

“You really are your own boss,” Branigan said. “You’re in charge of product quality.”

In that spirit, Branigan said he and Culbertson decided on self-publishing “Food Truck 411.” Branigan credited Culbertson for the book’s cover design, interior layout and recipe section.

“We’re hoping some local shops will carry it,” Branigan added.

Meanwhile, the “Food Truck 411” e-book debuts Friday, May 24 online at Copies, Branigan said, should be available from May through October at the stand.

Even Tortillaville itself, Branigan added, could be included. Branigan hinted at giving up the tortilla stand, should he meet the right buyer.

However, Branigan suggested he and Culbertson might be at it again in the Florida Keys with another food truck, or a cafe.

“It will in all likelihood probably involve a sailboat,” Branigan laughed.