What do you get when you combine three former Arizmendi bakers with an uber-cool new food truck (housing its own oven)? Well, Vesta Flatbread, of course. Perhaps you've seen them Saturdays at the Grand Lake Farmers Market in Oakland; now Jenya Chernoff, Traci Prendergast and Aron Ford are taking to the streets with their seasonal flatbreads and housemade drinks. Jenya and Traci founded Vesta in 2009 and Aron officially jumped on board this summer. I share a commercial kitchen space with them in Richmond, and was immediately struck with their positive energy, excitement for their new project, and the fact that they prepare beautiful meals for each other while they're cooking in the kitchen (something so many of us neglect to do). So I wanted to chat with them and find out more about their business, the mobile food truck culture, and where they see themselves in the future.
1. Tell me a little about your business and how/why you decided to start it.
All three of us met while bakers/co-owners of Arizmendi Bakery in Emeryville. We love the tradition and community of artisan baking and knew we wanted to make our own bread, but we wanted to expand our skills and creativity and create a business we could put our personal stamp on. Our menu was the marriage of our desire to evoke an ancient region of the world with wanting to dream up something creative and delicious using minimal equipment to sell on the streets. We’d like to think we ended up with a product that has thousands of years of history while reflecting our own “modern” food sensibilities.
2. Do you think living in the Bay Area allows your business to flourish? If so, how so?
Absolutely. People here understand and appreciate our values towards supporting local farms, ranches and dairies, even if this means our products can't be dirt cheap. For us, feeding others is an act of love, and the exchange we have with customers is important. Bay area folks are willing to try new things and explore, they are curious and open-minded.
3. What have been the highlights of being a small business owner in the Bay Area thus far?
Becoming part of the vibrant street food and farmers market community. Since becoming mobile vendors we have been able to meet so many wonderful, dedicated and creative people from all aspects of the food business, talk to farmers about their production, learn about their work and challenges and have a much broader understanding of the processes that bring food to the table.
4. What challenges are you facing right now in terms of growth or vision?
Well, one big challenge is finding our own retail/kitchen space. We have been sharing commercial kitchens, and we are grateful that such places exist. It is extremely difficult to find a reasonably sized space in a neighborhood that can support a retail food business. Mostly this is because of the regulations on building & permit processes in California, which jack up the costs of buying/building to a level prohibitive for most food businesses.
5. What inspires you, day to day?
The farmers' market, the seasons, other chefs.
6. What are your goals for the future of Vesta?
Our long term dream is to have our own kitchen and retail space. Given we launched our new truck August 25th, we are mainly just excited to become part of the nomadic kitchen culture of street food, and start serving up flatbread sandwiches in the East Bay and San Francisco.
Find them: Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, Oakland. And soon: out on the road in the truck!
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