Inside the truck with Fat Falafel and 1000 Figs creators
Editor’s note: Writer and photographer Robert Warren likes to tell stories. With pen and lens. In a partnership with NolaVie, he offers monthly guest features concerned with the background of his in-depth, quintessentially New Orleans photo stories. Today he writes about a recent visit visit with Fat Falafel and 1000 Figs co-founder Theresa Galli, after experiencing behind-the-scenes action in the Fat Falafel Truck.
It’s fascinating how we make meaning of the modern world around us, how we grow into it and shape it at the same time.
It is a certain luxury of an American generation of Millenials (or the Echo as some call us), to never know an omnipresent sense of fear in war-time, or the struggle of rationing out basic needs. It is for this luxury of birth in a certain era that we have been called any number of names, lazy or entitled topping the list. Yet, there is a mistake in such name-calling.
We are the product of our own naïve suburban environments and the very safety and education our parents demanded we receive.
So we prove greater truth in Newton and his laws. For the parental actions of our births and comfortable childhoods, we remained sheltered and naïve, less precocious than we ought to be for longer than we should.
But it is the equal and opposite reaction that is the spirit of our generation. We are not satisfied with the familiar or the bland, so ready we are to be free of the idyllic protection of cliché white picket fences and Friday night lights.
Our generation has come to see value in the world and it’s cultures like none before, the expansive mystery that extends beyond national border and the joy of new and unfamiliar peoples and experiences.
And by this way we have become sticklers for quality, each with an eye for master craft.
Theresa, co-owner of the Mediterranean restaurant 1000 Figs, and I stand one fall afternoon beside my Honda and catch up.
The restaurant is doing well, Theresa tells me.
But then she stares quickly at the ground and kicks a fallen leaf.
The downward gaze isn’t a sign of shame, more silent resignation.
She wants everything to be, well, better.
The dazzling Yelp reviews seem to disagree with her expression, but the sentiment is understood. She and Gavin, co-owner and fiancé, don’t simply want to make food. They want to curate an experience for the diner, to offer value beyond the cost of a meal.
They embody the best of the Millenial ethic, the learner, both critic and artist alike.
Everything in the restaurant speaks this mindset, the food emerging from the kitchen, the art on the walls, the gorgeous hardwood two-top tables, even the restaurant website.
They’ll be taking a break for Christmas to travel and reflect, then returning the second week of January to 1000 Figs. It’ll be a nice breather, a time to game plan improvements.
I tell her I’m excited to try what comes next.
Theresa smiles; I believe she is, too.
Excerpt: Turning a Fat Falafel into 1000 Figs
Being inside of the Fat Falafel truck is like sitting inside the mechanism of a fine watch.
The pieces are arranged, formed tightly, every open slot is the home of some critical apparatus, the scoops and bins align rigidly, abutting each other. From some nook or cranny not previously observed a new tool emerges and is put to use.
Gavin on the frier, Theresa assembling, and Kate ordering and serving, all know their positions.
There is a definite vibe in the air as the Fat Falafel watch-piece ticks away the minutes.
Kate takes the order and write a name on the slip, sliding the paper on the line.
Gavin prepares the falafels, or french fries, or both, depending on the order.
Theresa composes the elements, plating and adjusting and ensuring quality.
They have the sequence down to a science. There is no rushing, no sloppy foodservice, no haste. Even a few minutes late, after the second location of the day, with a car needing to go to the shop, with a burnt and healing hand, the Fat Falafel team is unflagging.
Still, ebbing beneath the current of the hard work of food preparation, there is a sort of yearning energy inside of the truck, a tension that hangs in the air like a synapse about to fire, the ready sensation that comes after the nervousness when the starting gun is about to sound.
The tension comes not from within the truck, but rather from what sits a mere twenty feet away from their open service hatch.
The wood around the building’s enormous front window reads “Maple Street Book Shops,” but Gavin and Theresa know the space in a different way.
It’s the site of their future brick-and-mortar restaurant, 1000 Figs.
Read the Fat Falafel and 1000 Figs story in its entirety here.
Writer and photographer Robert Warren likes to tell quintessentially New Orleans stories. With pen and lens. Catch his full body of work at www.isthisinc.com.