When you’re looking for something delicious to eat in NYC, skip the restaurants and truck on over to a food truck. And Big D’s Grub is one of the best that the city has to offer. The Asian/Latino menu has everything from breakfast burritos stuffed with smoked brisket to bulgogi sandwiches, rice platters, and insanely good yucca fries. We spoke with Big D himself, Dennis Kum, about how he decided to switch from a telecommunications career to catering, and why he never stops improving in all areas of his life.
What was life like prior to Big D’s Grub? What were you doing?
I was doing telecommunications. I decided to leave there and open up a restaurant, but I realized it was too expensive. So, I was doing some research on trucks. And then I actually got a job with Schnitzel & Things; I was their head cook. Eventually, I wanted to venture out on my own but they liked me so much they wanted to make me partner. I just wanted to do my own thing, though, so I went ahead and start doing my own truck.
How did you come up with the idea for the type of food that you serve?
Mexican food was actually one of my most favorite foods. And then I heard about this truck in L.A. that grossed 2 million within his first year. I was like, “Wow, really?” So, one time we were doing the New York Food Film Festival in Brooklyn, when I was working for Schnitzel, and there was a Korean taco truck from Jersey. They came over to this event and they had the longest line, and everyone’s going for the Korean barbecue. And I’m like, “You know what, I’m going to try to do this.” So, I started, you know, developing my recipes in my menu, and I did a bunch of taste tests, where I invited friends over. I’ve invited people I don’t even know! I’m in the kitchen cooking and someone will bring all the plates and I had a survey so that everyone could give their feedback. I wanted to tweak some of the recipes because I feel that there’s always room for improvement.
How has business grown?
It’s grown a lot. In the beginning, I didn’t have the capital. So, I was hustling, making enough to pay my guys, the food, and the rent. Slowly but surely, it started growing and getting better; I started doing catering gigs.
When we were waiting for you, there was a line. And in fact, there were people there who were so excited to meet you and try the food.
I try to remember people’s names and they’re usually surprised when I do remember their name. I’m even surprised because I’ve got a bad memory.
Tell me a little bit about the menu itself.
First off, I’m not even trained. I didn’t want people to bash me for that, although people have. I’ve been cooking since I was nine. I’m not a chef; I didn’t go to school to be a chef. I have basically been cooking all my life. I love hosting; I like dinner parties. On my business card it says Asian tacos and grinders. The sandwiches are basically the same meats. But with the pickled daikon radish, it’s supposed to resemble the Vietnamese sandwich. Basically the bulgogi is Korean, the spicy pork is Korean, the ginger chicken and the spicy chicken I marinate in Spanish seasoning and then I use my own ginger sauce. It’s my version of the ginger characteristic that you get when you order Japanese salads. The spicy chicken is siracha mayo and Korean pepper flakes. The dumplings are Chinese, fried yucca is Latin, and French fries is American.
What are your best sellers?
I would say the spicy pork grinder and the spicy chicken grinder but sometimes it depends on the location. Some locations are just all tacos, and other times, it’s grinders. It all depends on the area.
How did you how did you come up with the design for the truck? I mean, it’s bright yellow — you can’t miss it.
I have a friend who’s into graphic design and he does a lot of marketing and branding. He actually helped me he developed the logo, which I wasn’t too fond of at first because my face is on it, but everyone said I should go with it. So, I did a vote, and everyone voted yes. He had this book to see which colors are pleasing to the eye and what makes you think of food. Think about it. McDonald’s has red and yellow; Burger King has red, yellow, and orange. Even Wendy’s has red. So, I went with the bright orange and the yellow was to stand out and I put the black stripe. I was going to make it kind of resemble one of those school buses. So, it turns out with all the color scheme it worked out pretty good because that color is the original color of the truck. I only painted some parts of it, but the rest of it was already yellow because it was a DHL truck.
Now what are your plans for the future?
Well, my nickname is Big D and I call it grub because it kind of leaves me open to anything. You know, and I trademark Big D’s Grub, not Big D’s Grub Truck because I’ll be left alone with just a truck. Now, if I wanted to open a restaurant, I could. However, if I wanted to open up another truck Big D’s Grub, I could actually serve whatever I want. I could serve Italian food if I wanted to. But for now, I’m sticking with this theme of Asian and Latin food. I’m happy where I am now, the customers are happy, and we’ll see where it goes in the future.