EatDrinkJax.com shares their interview with Chef Ashley Amin of Fusion Food Truck.
13. Can you recommend a few dishes for people coming to Fusion Food Truck for the first time?
The best place to start is with the Tikka Masala. It was consistently our number one seller in our restaurants in San Diego. Everyone’s going to love that dish.
I personally like the Drunken Noodles, because they’re just a little different. Everyone’s used to eating pad Thai noodles, which are good too, but the Drunken Noodles have a little different flavor. Drunken Noodles also don’t come with peanuts, so for people with nut allergies they’re a good choice.
A hidden gem that we don’t have on the menu yet, but that’s coming, is something called a Kati Roll. It’s an Indian dish that’s basically a wrap. The bread is called roti, and it’s a thin flatbread. You can have a vegetarian version, but if you have it with meat then I sauté the meat with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and seasoning. I put the meat and vegetables on the bread and add both tamarind and mint chutney sauce before rolling it up. It’s really good. I’m just working on getting my equipment set up for it, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for it.
Samosas. Photo courtesy Jacksonville Restaurant Reviews.
14. Can you tell us about your background?
I grew up in England and went to university there to study business. We got the opportunity to move to the United States and settled in San Diego. My brother wanted to open his own business so we started with a little frozen yogurt place. We weren’t allowed to cook there so we started off making rice in a rice cooker. My mom used to make some curries and samosas at home. We’d bring everything to the store and sell combo plates for $5. We noticed that there was a huge demand. At that time Indian food wasn’t really well known in San Diego but people were really liking it. After about 2 months it took off and we were selling more combo plates then frozen yogurt. That gave my brother the idea to open a full restaurant. We sat up one night discussing things and drawing up plans. We originally had the idea of a vegetarian restaurant. My mom had taught me how to cook some basic items from about the age of 12 so I was in charge of the kitchen. All the recipes I knew how to make were on the menu. It was actually a pretty extensive list with Indian, Mexican, Italian, American and a whole mixture of vegetarian dishes. My schedule was from about 6 in the morning to 1 am, 7 days a week. That’s how we started, for a whole year. From our vegetarian restaurant we noticed that there was a huge demand for Indian food. There were no good Indian restaurants in San Diego at that time so we decided to open one ourselves. It took off right away. We ended up opening a total of 5 different restaurants - 3 Indian, 1 Chinese and 1 Mexican style (here).
15. Is it true that you’ve cooked for the Dalai Lama?
Yes! I’ve also cooked for the king of Jordan and Jagjit Singh, a famous Indian singer.
16. How did that come about? And what does the Dalai Lama eat?
The Dalai Lama was visiting San Diego in April of 2013. He stayed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the executive Chef there asked me to come up with a menu that I thought would be suitable for the Dalai Lama and his crew. I cooked Chicken Tikka Masala, Fish Korma, Paneer Masala, an assortment of naan breads, Mango Mousse, a Tandoori sampler, and Kheer.
My brother and his family got to see him and had pictures taken with him. Unfortunately I was at the restaurant cooking for an event so I missed out.
17. What brought you to Jacksonville?
I got married in July of 2012.
18. What was the appeal of a food truck for you?
I had wanted to have a food truck in San Diego but never got around to it. When I came to Jacksonville I didn’t want a restaurant where I’d have to work crazy hours all the time. I’ve done that for 22 years and didn’t want to get into that again. It seemed like the perfect time to start the food truck I’d always wanted.
19. How does the food truck scene in Jacksonville compare to San Diego?
It’s a lot more developed in San Diego. Food trucks can pretty much go anywhere they want and you see them everywhere. I saw the food truck culture take off in the ‘90s and I was just back recently and the number of trucks is incredible.
20. Have you found locations yet?
I’m still working on it. Getting a location feels like winning the lottery! It’s challenging.
21. Do you offer catering?
Definitely! Hopefully we’ll get clients who eat at the food truck and love it enough to invite us to their events.
22. Anything else?
I’ve received feedback that some people want the food to be spicier. When I first went out I purposefully kept things on the milder side. But I have the option to make things spicier. Each dish is made to order so people just have to let us know their preference for spice.
23. Why did you decide to make everything to order?
It tastes better that way. You get a freshness that you don’t have if everything is sitting for an hour or two in a warmer. Especially for things like the Drunken Noodles - if they’re made in advance they’ll dry out and people just won’t enjoy the taste. It also gives us the option to customize every dish for each customer.
Chef Ashley Amin
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About the writer
EatDrinkJax.com interviews are conducted by Jacksonville Beach resident Gerry Glynn. When Gerry isn't talking with restauranteurs he is working for a local software company, training for his next road race, and hanging out with his wife and dog.