By CJ Katz | The Leader-Post
Paul Rogers ain’t no spring chicken when it comes to running a food truck!
Last summer, he ran the successful Bon Burger gourmet burger truck together with his brother-in-law, Trevor Finch. The duo not only opened one of the very first food trucks to hit Regina streets, but they spearheaded the initiative and worked with the city to bring good food to Regina street corners.
This summer, Rogers spread his wings and opened his own gourmet food truck: Beak’s Chicken. The bright orange trailer stationed on Regina’s City Square Plaza is tapping into a growing trend out of the U.S.: fried chicken and waffles.
A graduate of the culinary program at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Rogers works full time as a Canada Post letter carrier. Currently on leave from delivering mail, he said he has always felt a strong calling to be a chef.
“I worked at Canada Post for three years before returning to food,” says Rogers, who left the industry for financial reasons to support his young family. “I always enjoyed cooking. And working at Canada Post was the perfect job. I’d get off at 2:30 p.m., come home, prep supper and create new dishes.”
For Rogers, a food truck is a cost-effective route to return to his passion. “It was a way to get back into cooking and generate more income than running a restaurant.” And the fact that he can pick and choose his hours and decide where he sets up for the day is an added bonus.
Compared to a restaurant, which takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up, the Bon Burger truck cost about $65,000. The new Beak’s Chicken bright orange trailer, which he purchased in Texas, set him back roughly $25,000 plus another $12,000 for a truck to haul it.
“With a food truck, if you have mechanical issues, the whole truck is out of commission. So when I set up Beak’s, I went with a trailer, which can be parked and the truck unhitched. It actually makes me more mobile,” he explains.
When it comes to fried chicken, the perfect piece should be meaty, flavourful, and juicy. The exterior should be coated with a seasoned breading that’s not salty, stays crispy, and doesn’t come off with the first bite.
Beak’s is no ordinary fried chicken. Rogers spent months researching how to create the perfect piece. He brines locally grown chicken pieces in an herb and lemon mixture for 12 hours. Then he cooks them ‘sous vide,’ a process where the breasts, drumsticks and thighs are vacuum sealed into packets, submerged in an immersion circulator and slowly cooked at a low temperature.
“There is no moisture loss with sous vide cooking,” says Rogers. “And storage is easy because everything is already packed.”
Prior to flash frying, the fully cooked pieces are coated in a seasoned flour-cornstarch mixture, dipped in tangy buttermilk, and then finished with a final coating of the seasoned flour and cornstarch. A fried chicken order ($7.95) with a drumstick and thigh and a container of homemade coleslaw can be ready in roughly seven minutes. It’s efficient and from a health standpoint very safe. With every piece fully cooked before it’s breaded and flash fried, there is no risk of biting into an undercooked piece of meat.
And if you’re looking for dessert, there’s no need to fly the coop. Beak’s serves up classic Brussels waffles made with a yeast batter and cooked on an authentic Belgian waffle maker imported from Belgium. The strawberry waffle ($5.50) is made with two waffle squares topped with real whipped cream, real maple syrup to ooze into those large pockets, and fresh sliced strawberries. It’s a downright excellent waffle: the texture is light with that telltale yeasty flavour, the mark of a true Brussels waffle.
For a savoury option, test out the chicken waffle ($11.50), a breaded chicken breast sandwiched between two waffles and smeared with homemade bacon jam. It’s covered with Roger’s own chicken gravy, made with schmaltz and homemade chicken stock.
And for something more hand-held, the chicken club ($7.95) is a great option, made with a chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, bacon and an avocado-ranch dressing.
Beak’s Chicken has come to roost with simply divine fried chicken and delightful waffles. It’s a gourmet food truck with a capital ‘G.’ The fixings are excellent, and worth every nickel. Just be sure to get down to the plaza early as lineups build quickly. Beak’s is open Wednesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. But remember, it’s the early bird that gets what I’d consider, without a doubt, the best chicken and waffles north of the American border.