Learnings from the road…

Hello beautiful people.  blah blah blah excuse excuse excuse for why I haven’t written in forever…

Ok now that’s out of the way.  Let’s talk about problem solving and getting to do things that you are massively under-qualified and unprepared for.  That’s been my summer.  I can’t remember if I have stated on here before but for those who don’t know, I work for Tutta Bella again.  I came back in November of last year.  Coming back was a separate story that I’ll tell you later… I want to fast forward to this summer.  The thick of it… Actually…. I’ll ease all of you into it…D’Asporto is Tutta Bella’s food truck.  It’s a retrofitted shipping container with a neapolitan wood-fired pizza oven in the back of it, pulled by a 2001 International 4700 Diesel engine. It’s part of the reason I came back.  I get the privilege of managing/figuring out making it a successful endeavor for the company.  I m going to tell you about the first 3 events which seem like forever ago…

March 29th.  The first D’Asporto event I’ve ever done.   Here’s what happened.  I didn’t think that the company who requested the truck was going to confirm, so I didn’t pay much attention to it.  The truck had been parked without a fire in the oven since October, so it needed to be reseasoned.  In order to reseason the oven we needed a good 6-8 weeks of a fire in the oven, building it bigger and hotter and burning it longer each day.  It’s a delicate oven and needs alot tender love and care.  I’ve never had to season anything except my cast irons at home and you can ask Dana, I’m not very good at that either.  SO turned out that the group did confirm, so instead of the 8 weeks to reseason the oven I have 5.  So every day for 5 weeks I went to the truck and lit a fire in the oven and let it burn for a few hours.

So game time.  It’s March 29th.  I get up with PLENTY of time to get to the truck, and hit the road.  My kitchen manager Moises (who is the best!!) was planning on meeting me at the event space.  The oven needs at 3 hours to safely get to the cooking temperature.  I was at the truck in time to get to the event 4 hours before service just to be safe.  I climbed into the cab of D’Asporto with my heart leaping out of my chest, veins coursing the adrenaline.  I put the key in the ignition.  I turn the key.


silence.   This was a cold spring morning.  It was 5am.  Peaceful tranquility.  The silence was ripped apart, not by the rumble of a diesel engine but by my screaming the f word.  I’m not proud of that moment… Probably woke up some people in the neighborhood… taught their kids a new word.. oops.

The next moment though, I am very proud.  Instead of screaming more, crying, breaking stuff,  or quitting, I immediately started to google mobile truck repair.  I finally got a hold of the hero of the day at Duke’s Truck Repair.  He came out in 20 minutes and diagnosed the problem.  He said my alternator was shot.  He got my battery charged up and agreed to meet me at the event space with a new alternator and replaced it for me on site.  Talk about customer service! So I left columbia city an hour and a half later than I wanted to, finally got to the event.  Moises, Victor and Gary (the crew for the day) we already there ready to load in.  I touched base with the event planner, and we got set up and ready to go.  Everything went flawlessly during the event despite the rain and the wind and having to roll 6 pizzas in at a time for a buffet for 75 people.

I got back from that event emotionally and physically exhausted, and here’s the kicker:  excited.  I’m starting to discover that I am wired for adversity.  I see a challenge, and push through it.  Learn and get better.  Learn and get better.  Rinse and repeat.

The next event we had was a wedding in Ballard at the Golden Garden Bathhouse.  My good friend Alan Yee was in town visiting and he got to ride with me during one of the scariest drives I’ve taken in D’Asporto: the first time I went down Denny Hill in this monster of a truck.  For that event, we parked the truck way further away from the venue than was ideal.  It was raining sideways, we literally had pizzas fly off of the tray we were using to take them inside to the venue.  We couldn’t figure out how to use the prosciutto slicer, smoke from the oven dumped into the container right before we needed to start cooking pizzas.  All in all though we made it work.  The event went well both bride and groom were very happy.  I got turned around on my way back to columbia city and ended up having to up Denny Hill which was even more scary than going down.  By the time I got back to the area where I park D’Asporto someone had blocked the parking lot off, and due to some stupid Seattle parking enforcement laws, I didn’t have the legal authority to get them towed so I had to wait until about 2:30 AM for them to move their cars.   Same story at the end though, mentally and physically exhausted and unexplicably excited for the next one.  

The next event was the oven blessing.  It’s a neapolitan tradition to have your pizza oven blessed by priest, and we decided to take the truck to a men’s shelter in Seattle, have a friends and family party, do the oven blessing ceremony and then feed 250+ homeless men and women after the party.  To say I was excited about this event is a massive understatement.  This is why I came back to Tutta Bella.  We had the means to meet people where they were at and fed them a fresh hot meal.  I think I have another one of these events coming up in November, and I can’t wait.
We cranked out 350+ pizzas that day.  Maria, Moises, Gary and Jessalyn crushed it.  There was news cameras there, tons of people I haven’t seen in forever, overall it was a crazy event, and I’ll never forget it. Leading up to it was a ton of planning and coordinating between the shelter, the city of Seattle for a parking permit (which we actually didn’t end up finalizing… oh well it all worked out) getting the nameplate for the oven fabricated and installed, finding a priest who wasn’t serving during a Maundy Thursday Mass, and coordinating with Costantino’s family on if they would be joining us.  We named our oven after a dear friend Costantino who passed away from stomach cancer last year.  His sister came out from Rome and was a part of the blessing ceremony.  Joe invited Dana and I out to dinner with her the following night and turns out she’s a videographer and just a delightful person, so now I have a new friend in Rome!
These events were all in consecutive weeks.  During this time, when I wasn’t on the truck, I was in our Bellevue location running shifts in the dining room.
You might be thinking, “wow I didn’t know Sam had experience running a food truck.” or “wow good thing Sam knows alot about how to fix or work on a vehicle” OR “I didn’t know Sam was experienced in driving large vehicles”.  Well the truth is that as of March 28th of this year I didn’t have  the experience, the knowledge, or the qualifications to do any of it.
Seafair almost killed me.

Here’s what I did have:  A company, owner, director of operations, GM, management team, and employees who believed in me,  They gave me the freedom and guidance to figure things out. I also have more problem solving skills, creativity, and a morbid curiosity than I realized.  Was it always fun?  I’m not gonna lie, most of the time it was, and the reason I say that is because I am a weirdo. I absolutely love hard work. It wasn’t all just the fun and games I show on my facebook live videos.  What you haven’t seen is my prep for the Ferrari of Seattle events I had this summer where I wake up at 2am and pack the truck by myself and drive 3 hours to Shelton, WA and set up a breakfast pastry and fruit buffet by myself.    This summer has been hard, back breaking, mind numbing, exhausting work.  2 weeks ago I put in 82 hours.  Not ideal, I know.  Dana is certainly not a fan of me working 82 hours a week (I had to hire her for events so we could get some more time to hang out!) and it’s in no way a sustainable strategy however in year 1 of D’Asporto it is what was needed.  Year 2 is going to be bonkers.  Less figuring out, more doing things better, more efficient, more often.   
So much happened this summer, now that I’m back to writing, I’m sure I’ll tell you all more stories from the road.  This is the first time that I’ve thought of these 3 events in months.  I’ve done 40+ since, each one (for the most part) getting easier to execute than the last.I’ve also been really pondering the idea of paradox.  I think life is a collection of paradoxes that we have to navigate…. more on that later. Thanks for reading.  More to come.

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