Food truck born out of friendship and epic trip
For ten days this past April, Cory Morton was a culinary guinea pig. He’d been invited by his friend and business partner, Chef Hao Gong, on an eating tour of Hong Kong -- research for possible dishes for their new venture, an Asian-fusion food truck called Mr. Choo.
“I’ve never eaten so much food,” says Morton, 38. “One day we went to five restaurants for lunch.” On another night, they had a six-course gourmet meal -- at one-thirty in the morning.
They ate at everything from Michelin-star restaurants to street vendors, Morton says with all different styles of food -- from a spicy 12-course Hunan feast to exotic seafood like spiny lobster and stir-fried razorclams.
And there were the truly odd (to western palates) dishes, like snake soup made from a king cobra -- “it was delicious…a really rich flavor,” Morton explains, "kind of like alligator, but not chewy at all,” -- and another soup made with congealed pig’s blood.
“I had the thousand year egg, which is a fermented egg -- basically like a rotten egg -- that they stick underground for weeks,” says Morton. “The point is, it was fun I had some weird stuff but I’m adventurous. I’ll try anything.”
Morton and Hao met back in 2000, when Hao was a sushi chef at Sake Café. Morton, who lived nearby, would come to the sushi bar to study and to have Hao, as he put it, “feed me.”
“He would just make up creations,” said Morton. “He was the best sushi chef I’d ever been to, and I’ve been all over.”
But Chef Hao would move to Houston shortly before Hurricane Katrina, and then California after that.
He returned to Sake in 2009, though, and while opening a restaurant together was something the two friends had talked about in passing, it became a serious endeavor in January of this year, when they started looking at possible locations.
Finding a spot that they liked at a suitable rent proved very difficult, however, which got Morton thinking back to the street vendors of Hong Kong. And that got him thinking about a food truck.
“We thought, ‘Why don’t we buy a food truck,’” says Morton. “Then we can get our name out there, and then we can open a restaurant.”
So that’s what they did, purchasing a truck with a state-of-the-art kitchen, complete with a salamander broiler, a six-top burner with a stove underneath, a three-foot flat top grill, plus a char-grill and a wok station.
“We have two forty-pound fryers so we can fry dumplings, or we can do tempura,” Morton says. They also plan on streaming video straight from the kitchen so patrons can watch Hao in action.
The menu at Mr. Choo is Asian fusion, Morton explains, which plays to Hao’s varied culinary background. “He can do sushi, he can do sashimi, he can do traditional Chinese, he can do fusion Chinese where he can bring in seafood," says Morton.
Patrons of Mr. Choo can look forward to dishes like an Asian meatball po-boy, a chicken teriyaki ‘burger’, two kinds of dumplings, a tuna poke salad, curry fried rice, a tropical salmon sashimi, and much, much more.
They will also serve a variety of fresh juices and organic teas, such as a fresh-squeezed apple lemonade, Morton says.
While Morton says they haven’t settled on specific locations to park their truck yet, Mr. Choo will always be able to be tracked via their website, http://mrchoonola.com, or through their Facebook page. Mr. Chop also offers catering services.
Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.