NYSF FEATURED VENDOR PROFILE: BIG GAY ICE CREAM TRUCK
One of the most popular new food trucks last year was the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (BGICT). They were a 2009 Vendy Award finalist in 2 categories, Best Dessert and Rookie of the Year. And while they didn’t come home with an award that day, it’s pretty obvious from the thousands of satisfied customers and tons of great press, they are well-loved in this town.
The mothballs are being removed, the shelves are being dusted off, and on Thursday April 1st, BGICT is back. Call it BGICT II – Choinkwich’s Revenge!
We scored this exclusive interview with the BGICT just prior to their re-launch. The responses below were provided by Doug, one-half of the BGICT team (along with Bryan). For your pleasure, our next NYSF Featured Vendor Profile, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck:
NYSF: How did you come up with the idea for the BGICT and when did you first start serving customers?
BGICT: The idea came along in stages. First I was offered the chance to operate an ice cream truck, and I couldn’t possibly refuse. Next I started a Facebook page to try to rally my friends behind me. I had nothing to call the group, and I thought, “I’ve got no name for this thing, I’m just asking people to support me and my big gay ice cream truck. What the hell do I call it?” and thus the name was born. Lastly Bryan and I both loved that we’d have endless amounts of soft-serve to experiment with; we knew that fun and unusual toppings would be a part of the venture.
NYSF: I know Doug is a professional bassoonist. Do either of you have a food or general business background? If so, what?
BGICT: Bryan waited tables a little in high school, and I used to make popcorn at the single-screen movie theater in Pittsfield, ME. I also worked in the hot dog shack at the little league field. That’s it. Fortunately my dad taught me how to balance a checkbook, that’s the only business experience I’ve had yet it’s more than some people!
NYSF: How did you find a truck to buy, and were there any problems converting it from Mister Softee to BGICT?
BGICT: The truck came through a friend who has been driving for a few years; she found one for me to use. As for converting it- last summer we just stuck a banner on the outside. It was all done very cheaply, which was part of the fun of it. There was no disguising that it’s essentially just like any other ice cream truck. The difference is the guys running it.
NYSF: Street vendors can get pretty territorial. Have you had problems with other vendors or store owners?
BGICT: I’ve been blessed. I’ve not had problems that couldn’t be resolved by offering someone a complimentary milk shake.
NYSF: Some of the toppings and combinations are pretty out there (wasabi peas, trix cereal, olive oil and sea salt, nutella). Where do you get the ideas for toppings, and how did you come up with the piece-de-resistance, the Choinkwich?
BGICT: A few of the toppings, like olive oil and sea salt, are items that we’ve replicated. Some of them are obvious: a Nutella and ice cream sandwich is just a given! The ideas come from our imaginations, from suggestions, and from wandering grocery stores with an open mind.
The Choinkwich is a product of trial and error. We are both fans of combining chocolate and bacon, so we really hoped to figure out a great item for the truck. Initial experiments were really disappointing; we were trying to figure out a way to do bacon as a topping and the result was a chewy ball of bacon-goo. It finally struck me that putting bacon into a sandwich would be the way to go, and Bryan tried a few caramelization techniques before he hit on the way we serve it.
NYSF: Have there been any flavors or toppings that didn’t work out so well, either in the kitchen or with customers?
BGICT: As I mentioned, bacon as a topping (as opposed to in a sandwich) was a huge mess. We’ve had a few other things that just didn’t taste like much. One thing that didn’t hit with customers was maple syrup, and we really liked it. I think I’ll bring it out again this summer and see if there is a better reaction.
NYSF: There are a lot of crazy people out there. Have you run into any problems with homophobes or just plain crazy people?
BGICT: One incident that comes to mind was a teenager who got a little uppity with me, and started to mouth off. The great thing was that his friends were all over him. I stood back and watched it all play out; essentially his friends wouldn’t tolerate his homophobia.
I think that any street vendor gets their share of goofy people, especially those of us who serve after-hours. I’ve learned to let things play themselves out. I’ve also learned that occasionally you need to tell people to take a hike.
NYSF: What are some of your favorite non-ice cream foods?
BGICT: French onion soup. Hanger steak. Roasted garlic. Mussels in white wine.
NYYSF: Can you give us a sneak preview into any of the new flavors or toppings coming out this year (pun intended).
BGICT: Watch out for a sundae special that I’m going to make using maple cider donuts that I buy from Migorelli Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket. I need to get the truck running and tweak it before I start serving it, but the initial trials are pretty outrageous.
NYSF: Thank you for your time, and best of luck this year.
BGICT: Thank you.