By Patrice Wilding | The Times-Tribune
Green Ridge native Brendan Bell grew up loving local food, but it took years of living out West to truly inspire him to start his own business.
Local cuisine mostly focuses on hearty comfort food or reflects a restaurateur’s heritage, but Mr. Bell’s penchant for gourmet Southwest flavors is what led to him opening the Southwest Savory Grill food truck in November.
Mr. Bell moved to Vail, Colo., around age 22 and also spent some time in Denver, which had a lifestyle he discribed as being laid back. The food he discovered there was a game-changer, he said.
“I think that’s where I got my flair for southwest food,” he explained. “The food there is spicy, but it feels good. It’s all fresh and healthy.”
Another move took Mr. Bell to Washington, D.C., where he spent nine years and said life moved at a much faster pace. That showed him the importance of finding good food fast.
“That’s where I got the hustle and bustle,” he said.
For most of his life, he worked in the restaurant business, managing, cooking or helping open five-star eateries. He gained experience in all levels of dining and each aspect of the industry before deciding to combine what he learned in his travels into his own business.
After moving back to the area several years ago, Mr. Bell began the search for a space of his own. At first he considered a brick-and-mortar building, but then he switched tracks and researched the food truck industry for more than a year before purchasing his own truck.
To his surprise, Mr. Bell won an online bidding war for a truck that was originally custom-made for celebrity chef Rachael Ray, and thus Southwest Savory Grill became his life.
Ms. Ray intended to use the food truck on her show, Mr. Bell said, but after the concept was dropped, the truck was available. Still, the interior was customized and top of the line, he added, so that one could actually “imagine she’d be on it cooking.”
Developing a menu was a no-brainer for Mr. Bell, who acts as manager, chef and all-around operator of the truck with assistance from a single helper.
“Everything is cooked to order. I took recipes I love and focused on a menu that’s fresh and quick,” he said.
The regular offerings include pan-fried chicken tacos prepared with almond-spiced bread crumbs and spicy mayo, along with marinated and sauteed shrimp tacos topped with fresh corn and tomato salsa. The shredded beef Barbacoa tacos are made with meat that’s been slow-cooked in an adobo red sauce to tenderize it. Daily fresh fish offerings are available, too. Burrito bowls and a Southwest Savory Salad round out the daily menu, though Mr. Bell added that he’s able to make any incarnation of ingredients for customers upon request as long as he has the goods.
“It’s kind of like create-your-own,” he said, adding that many customers also are fans of his “secret taco,” which he creates on a whim per person.
As summer approaches, Mr. Bell plans to incorporate more fresh fish, too, including salmon, trout, marlin and catfish, as well as more exotic meats, such as buffalo or ostrich.
“I dream up stuff every day and put it on special,” he added.
Will cater events
The food truck roves all over the the city and surrounding towns, and its location can be found by checking the official Facebook or Twitter feeds, though Mr. Bell noted he is available to cater corporate affairs or even private parties at homes and vacation properties.
The benefit of using a food truck rather than a catering company, he explained, is that the food is prepared hot and fresh on site rather than beforehand and transported to the party or reception.
Though his “restaurant” is confined to a much smaller space than he originally envisioned, Mr. Bell is just happy to finally be sharing his favorite food with customers.
“I always wanted to get my food out there,” he said. “It’s fun to make good food, and people just die for it. It brings a certain amount of satisfaction when people enjoy.”
Contact the writer: email@example.com, @pwildingTT on Twitter
Southwest Savory Grill food truck
Address: Changes daily
Owner: Brendan Bell
Established: November 2012
Cuisine: Southwest gourmet
Prices: $3.50 to $10
Hours: Operates five days a week; times vary by weather
Website: Like the fan page on Facebook or follow on Twitter @southwestsavory