By Cindy Sutter | DailyCamera.com
It’s 6:30 in the morning, and Nathan Miller and Shannon Aten are already hard at work.
The intoxicating smell of baking cinnamon rolls perfumes the kitchen at Tres Papusas, where the pair rent kitchen space to produce the cupcakes, croissants, sticky boxes (more on those later) and cookies they sell in their newly formed food truck business, The Tasterie Truck.
The truck made its debut last week in Flatirons Office Park, just as the Boulder City Council clarified its regulations, allowing such trucks to operate in industrial area rights of way. But it’s hard to think about rules and regs when oatmeal-bacon-chocolate chip-walnut-raisin cookies are being flattened onto a cookie sheet or buttercream flavored with Bailey’s is being piped onto a Guinness chocolate cupcake. The latter is for the evening run at Asher Brewery. The rest of the haul is destined for Flatirions Business Park off of 55th Street.
Aten will arrive there at 8 a.m. to catch workers coming into the office, toting goodies such as bacon and gouda croissants and the aforementioned cinnamon rolls, as well as three types of cupcakes.
“You don’t want to run out of coffee,” she says.
The Tasterie came to Aten in a dream in November, although the idea of a cupcake
truck was something the Colorado native had toyed with living in New York, where cupcake trucks are common. She had worked in finance for several years and gotten tired of corporate life.
When she visited Colorado in December, she met Miller, who had worked for six years as the pastry chef at the Kitchen.
“Once I got introduced to Nate, (I said) ‘Colorado is where it’s at,'” she says.
She tells the story as she writes out the specials board for the day. Miller is talking about East Coast-style pretzels he’s perfecting for when they take the truck to events such as youth soccer games.
For parents who despair that their children love candy too much, take heart in the career of Miller, who often spent all of his allowance on candy as a child.
His eyes get a faraway look when he talks about how much he loved Kit Kat bars back then “before they changed the recipe and made them waxy.”
The Kit Kat experience comes up as he’s explaining how he likes to use texture in his desserts. As he speaks, he pipes in dark chocolate ganache into the center of the Guinness chocolate cupcakes. Contrasting with the moist cake and gooey chocolate is the creamy Bailey’s icing and a chocolate wafer on top.
Of texture in desserts he says: “Anything that gets you involved (in the dessert) makes you feel special.”
For now the menu is retro filtered through a pastry chef’s sensibilities, dessert items that hearken back to childhood memories, such as milk and cookies cupcakes with globs of cookie dough baked inside with a chocolate chip cookie topping the buttercream. Or think donut muffins, which are dipped in melted butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar. The sticky box is a mini bundt cake with dates with a ginger-spiced toffee poured over.
“We like to say it’s so sticky it has to go in a box,” Aten says.
Even just getting started with the business only a week old, Miller is going through about 60 pounds of butter a week. Eventually they hope to offer dairy-free and gluten-free options.
They’re tweaking the menu as they get a better feel for what customers in various parts of town are looking for. A Twitter message searching for a feta and spinach croissant made them think that might be a good item to put into rotation.
One advantage of doing a pastry business in food truck is lower startup costs. No baking is done on board. Only a couple of toaster ovens sit atop the stainless steel counters. Those, set at a low 150 degrees allow them to put “warm” as a descriptor for the cinnamon rolls. A glued down industrial-size coffee maker is the only other appliance. Without ovens or grills, the pair were able to retrofit the van and get into business for about $20,000, compared with the roughly $100,000 that it costs to get some savory food trucks ready for business.
Lest you get the impression that serving baked goods out of a truck is all fun and games, you might remember that 6 a.m. start. As is typical of a business start-up of any kind, the days lean to 12 hours-plus.
“We’ve both been battling colds from the long hours,” Aten says.
Still, as she puts it: “I get to sell cupcakes for a living. That’s a cool job. I can’t complain too much.”