When you combine Jason Sobocinski’s love for grilling and cheese with Tom Sobocinski’s love for vehicles, you get “The Cheese Truck.” The truck brings Caseus cheese shop and restaurant to the streets, offering an exciting assortment of vegetarian soups, mouth watering sandwiches, and healthy salads.
scene interviews Jeff Weaver, sous chef at Caseus and the man behind the wheel, the panini grill, and the gastronomic, mobile miracle that is the Cheese Truck.
Q .So is this your first foray into mobile food sales?
A. Yes. This is the first time I’ve ever been in a truck selling food.
Q .How did you decide to start the Cheese Truck?
A. Actually the owner of Caseus and his brother Tom had thought about doing a truck, and they brought it around. I thought it would be a fun thing to do.
Q .Where did they get the truck? Isn’t the Cheese Truck really more of a van?
A. One day they pulled it up in front of the restaurant. Apparently they got it in Jersey from Craigslist. I think it started out as a school bus, but I’m not really sure. It’s kind of like a whole kitchen on wheels.
Q .Do you know how much they paid for it?
A. I think it was somewhere in the $14,000 range.
Q .What does a typical day look like on the Cheese Truck?
A. I start my day at about 7:30 on the truck, getting it ready. We keep it at a garage, and after prepping I drive to Caseus. I open the kitchen there until the other guys get there, then I get on the road. After about 4 o’clock I get back to Caseus, help them get through dinner, and hopefully get home early.
Q .Do you change the variety of food for sale each day or is it a fixed menu?
A. We have a special grilled cheese of the day and a special sausage of the day, which usually changes every day. You can also put a variety of toppings on your grilled cheese.
Q .What is your favorite sandwich?
A. I like guacamole, bacon, and tomato, personally.
Q .Tell us about the mysterious “Name Your Own Sandwich Challenge.” Has anyone won it yet?
A. We’ve only been out for two weeks, and a couple of people have talked about doing it, but no one’s quite done it yet. Nobody’s even tried.
Q .Do you think anyone will?
A. Yes. I think very soon.
Q .Yalies are driven like that.
A. We heard some calculations going on.
Q .How big are the sandwiches?
A. They’re not obscenely big or anything. They’re pretty standard sized.
Q .You also sell shots of soup?
A. Combination #1 is 8 oz. of tomato soup. We also give shots to people waiting in line sometimes. We sell quite a bit.
Q .What kind of cheeses are there?
A. It’s a combination of gouda, comte, swiss, provolone, cheddar, muenster – pretty much any of the standard cheeses we have lying around. I grate it all up, so it’s all one mix in the sandwiches.
Q .Do you work in the truck by yourself? Do you get lonely?
A. Usually I have someone helping me – Jason [Sobocinski]’s been there, his brother Tom has been there. I think we’re going to have a couple waitresses from Caseus do cameos.
Q .Is there enough room in the truck for all of you?
A. Two people fit. More than two gets pretty crowded.
Q .Where do you park?
A. We’ve been working on that. Last Wednesday we were at Cross Campus, on College Street. Today we went to the hospital near the medical school. And Friday our spot is definitely Chapel and York. That was really hot the first time we went. So we’ll keep going there in the future. When the farmers’ market starts up, we’ll go there, selling all local products. We kind of have an idea of where we want to be and we just drive around until we get the right spot.
Q .Do you envision a tracking service?
A. We’re on Twitter.
Q .What kind of student responses have you seen?
A. They’re ecstatic to see us. They love it because it’s a change of pace and something different to eat.
Q .Have you kept track of the number of sandwiches you’ve sold?
A. No I haven’t, but I know last Friday we sold about a hundred in about three hours.
Q .Wow. Are there other cheese trucks in the world that you know of?
A. Yes — I know there’s one in California. We look to it for ideas and things. I’m sure there are other ones. It’s a simple concept.
Q .So what does it take to run the Cheese Truck?
A. I have a two-burner stove and a flat-top like you’d find in a diner. There’s a little fryer, as well, that doesn’t quite work yet, but we’re working on that. There are three coolers, and space for a sandwich prep line. There’s plenty of room for almost anything in there.
[scene wonders what exactly goes on in the Cheese Truck.]
Q .Do you have any big plans for expanding your culinary offerings in the future?
A. I think we’re going to do probably potato chips. Fresh cut potato chips. The way they do French fries is not possible on the truck.
Q .Have you always been a cook at Caseus?
A. I’ve been at Caseus for two years and I’ve pretty much always cooked. Currently my position there (other than being on the truck) is as a sous chef. I messed around with a couple other things earlier on. This is my 18th year in the restaurant industry.
Q .Have you run into any challenges with the Cheese Truck?
A. The biggest obstacle is parking and parking tickets.
Q .Do the cops bother you?
No, no. The only tickets we’ve gotten actually are in front of Caseus. So we have to try and avoid that… Parking in front of the hospital is also difficult.
Q .Do you see the Cupcake Truck as competition? Or are they a complementary food service?
A. They’re definitely complementary. They’re dessert. I don’t think we really have any competition. We have our own niche.
Q .Do you have a personal rapport with the guys behind the Cupcake Truck?
A. I believe Jason does, but I haven’t been to the cupcake truck. I’m usually inside the restaurant or behind the wheel.