CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Long before the owner of a popular Charleston food truck became a chef on wheels, he worked for other people, even wearing some hats that had nothing to do with cooking.
"I'm melting cheese on two mediums, shrimp, potato salad, fried shrimp," Cast Iron Food Truck owner Victor Colbert said.
The crowd at the Old Naval Base starts lining up before 11 a.m.
"I'm getting close on jerk chicken, I'll let you know though."
You'll find Colbert and his crew serving up lunch at this location every other Tuesday.
“The jerk is in the air, so I can smell it. I just had to come for it. I just love jerk chicken, Jamaican food,” first-time customer Marquez Alexander said.
When Cast Iron Food truck hit the road in 2012, there were only a handful of other rolling eateries in the area.
“When I started, if I’m not mistaken, I think I was the 14th food truck in Charleston,” Colbert said.
Colbert is originally from the DC area. He attended culinary school, and when his wife landed a job in Charleston, he worked at a Myrtle Beach restaurant as a kitchen manager.
“Truthfully I enjoyed it, but I was burned out. Working late nights, 12, 14, 15 hour days on your feet and with young kids I wanted to spend more time with them and that’s what kind of led me to look at another avenue,” Colbert said.
So, he landed a job in the call center industry. He started with Verizon.
“At first as a customer service rep, and once I went to T-Mobile, promoted to supervisor. Enjoyed it, it was pretty good living,” he said.
But Colbert kept hungering for something different, so he hung up his headsets, in search of his next move.
“I didn’t know if I specifically wanted to go back into the restaurant, so I took a job with the USDA as a food inspector,” Colbert said.
Two weeks into the job, he knew it wasn’t for him. He was assigned to a location just outside of Charlotte in Monroe, North Carolina. He spent the next six months on the job, researching food trucks. That’s when he found out about Charleston’s Food Truck Rodeo.
“Saw Roti Rolls and Diggity Donuts, some of those guys were in the food truck industry and really started to make a name for themselves,” he said.
A food truck allowed him to set his own hours, and make a living doing what he loved. And while he was a seasoned chef, he had a lot to learn about the mobile cooking business, like how not to destroy the hood vent on the truck.
“I actually went under a tree at Charleston Tea plantation and knocked it completely off. And actually that’s my third one since being in business,” Colbert said.
“Or you get to a location and an item or a dish you prepared, it’s in the back of the food truck and it’s somehow, it’s shaken itself onto the floor and now you have to throw that in the trash,” he said.
Cast Iron food truck is famous for its burgers and what Colbert calls comfort sandwiches.
“The Notorious P.I.G. is one of our biggest sellers," he said. "Pulled pork, it’s honey ham, bacon, candy jalapenos, which we make in house and a mojo sauce.”
And for six years now, more and more couples have been saying “I do,” to the food truck experience at their wedding receptions.
“What I hear is, ‘Man I loved the food, I was just so tired of going to weddings and they always had the standard green beans and mashed potatoes and some type of beef,”’ Colbert said.
The food truck industry is thriving in Charleston, with hundreds of trucks now serving meals on wheels. Colbert says to be successful, listen to your clientele, and serve them what they want.
Colbert says if you’re thinking about getting into the food truck business, he recommends business classes. Because if the price isn’t right for your menu item, you won’t make a dime. And no matter how good of a cook you think you are, he says it won’t hurt you to try culinary school.
He recommends bungee cords to keep doors to appliances closed and other items secured for traveling.
Colbert said he wasn’t concerned about quitting his 9-5 to start his business, because he had done his research, and knew what he was getting into. He financed his food truck with personal savings, and a loan from a banking institution.
As for the name of his truck, Colbert says it was his son’s idea. His son helped him brainstorm a name that would show off his versatility on the grill.
“My son was saying well Dad, what about cast iron? A cast iron pan. You can cook anything, you can do corn bread, you can bake a cake, you can cook burgers,” Colbert said.