Chasing Dreams With A Food Truck
Sometimes out of bad things dreams come true.
So it was with Chris Michael, 32, of Waxahachie, who turned losing a job into his dream of owning a restaurant a few months later, the Shiny Knife Restaurant/Food Truck.
“Our first event was a soccer tournament in Waxahachie at the end of July,” Michael recalled.
The restaurant operates out of a 20-foot concession trailer with a full commercial kitchen and a patio on back that houses the smoker used for cooking brisket and pork items.
“I was furloughed from my job in March of this year and decided to make the best out of a bad situation and finally chase my dream of owning my own food business,” Michael said.
“I purchased the trailer in June and began the process of fitting it with all of the equipment I needed as well as acquiring all the licenses and permits as well.”
But really, Michael said the idea came to him several years ago, though he was too busy with his full-time job as a district manager for a national restaurant chain. Then, he was furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fusing Tex-Mex and BBQ
“My first idea was a taco truck concept serving inventive creations similar to what Velvet Taco or Torchy’s does. I decided against that because this is Texas and taco trucks are a dime a dozen, and I wanted to set myself apart from others in the industry,” he said. “I also considered a barbecue concept, but decided against that as well due to barbecue trucks being common, and because barbecue is so labor intensive that cooking it every day would be difficult as a one-person operation, and also take away from time with my family.
“The sandwich idea stemmed from realizing that I could fuse the Tex-Mex and barbecue influences in a way that no one in the area is currently doing.”
Michael said his specialty is creating items that have the comfort aspects people love, and adding a unique twist that makes the sandwiches different from others.
Best Seller:Brisket Cheesesteak
“The brisket cheesesteak is my best seller. I wanted to to do a Philly cheese steak, but decided that using brisket instead of shaved ribeye allows me to incorporate my love for barbecue, and also puts a Texas spin on it,” he said. “A traditional Philly usually comes with provolone cheese or Cheese Whiz, but I felt that using pepper jack would spice things up a bit.
“After a few experiments I decided that creating a cheese sauce constructed of using sliced pepper jack would be a nice play on the Cheese Whiz and also yielded a better product. By calling it queso instead of cheese sauce, I could further expand upon the Tex-Mex idea.”
As for the name of the business, Michael said that actually dates back to his youth.
Sharpest Knife in the Drawer?
“The name Shiny Knife comes from the phrase ‘not the sharpest knife on the drawer,'” he said with a chuckle. “When I was around 12 or 13, I did something dumb that I can’t even remember anymore. My intended response to this was to say that I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I mixed up my words and said shiniest instead of sharpest.
“My dad found that mistake hysterical and never let me live it down. It became a running joke in my family that whenever I did something foolish, someone would remind my other family members that I wasn’t the shiniest knife in the drawer, and I became known as the shiny knife in the family.
“Years later, I was trying to think of a team name for barbecue and other other cooking competitions. Because I got my love for cooking from my dad and barbecue was a family activity for us, Shiny Knife Barbecue just seemed to fit.”
So, when he started the food struck, Shiny Knife Sandwich Shop sounded good. He also figured it would help that he already had a small following under the name.
Staying Mobile To Find Business
While there is a buzz about Shiny Knife, which moves around the area to serve clients, there is also the same challenge many restaurants are facing – COVID-19. There’s also the winter weather that challenges outdoor dining establishments.
“The biggest struggle has been finding events to set up. Due to COVID-19, most of the large festivals and events have been cancelled, and the events that are still taking place are doing so with much smaller crowds than in the past,” he said. “I’ve had to work hard to find events, and even create my own. I have found that working with apartment complexes and homeowners associations to create events for their communities has been pretty successful.”
And yes, this is a family business as he works alongside his wife Genna – and others.
“Genna is a huge part of the business. Aside from being my biggest emotional supporter, she’s also great at working the window on the truck,” he said. “My wife also helps with the bookkeeping, along with my mom, who is a professional bookkeeper. My brother, sister-in-law, and several of my friends help me out on the truck too.”
Michael does not come from food business family, but his love for cooking comes from his upbringing, he said.
A Family Business With A Passion For Food
“I initially learned to cook from my dad, and cooking has been a big bonding experience for us as we have cooked cooked at home together for years and have done several barbecue and chili cook-offs together,” Michael said. “Over the last couple of years, my youngest brother Nick, who is a senior at Texas A&M, has done cook-offs with us and developed a love for cooking that has caused him to be the main cook and barbecue guy among his roommates in College Station.””
Michael said his eventual goal is to use the food truck to build enough capital start a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“I would love to operate a British pub or gastro pub style bar and grill where I can continue to put my unique twist on comfort foods and take them to another level,” he said.
In the meantime, anyone wanting to know more about Shiny Knife can visit them on Facebook and Instagram at @ShinyKnifeSandwichShop. Also, the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.