Food trucker Adam Hynam-Smith publishes Curbside, his first cookbook
Adam Hynam-Smith co-owns and operates the El Gastronomo Vagabundo truck with his partner, Tamara Jensen.
Image: Suresh Doss
Fans of the popular food truck El Gastronomo Vagabundo can now re-create their favourite recipes with Curbside: Modern Street Food from a Vagabond Chef, the new book from chef Adam Hynam-Smith.
It finally hit store shelves this week and is the first book for Hynam-Smith.
Hynam-Smith and his partner, Tamara Jensen, have been credited for kickstarting the gourmet food truck scene in Ontario over the last five years. They were the chef-driven food truck to launch in the province, and Hynam-Smith’s menu continues to push the envelope for global street food. “I’ve always aimed to serve restaurant quality food from the truck window,” he told me during a recent trip to Toronto to eat pintxos at Bar Raval.
The book started with 175 recipes, Hynam-Smith trimmed it down to under 170. Forty-three recipes have photos with ample step-by-step shots of some of the more complicated processes.
Here's what Hynam-Smith and Jensen had to say about the book.
The perennial favourite Battered Cod Taco with Smoked Pineapple and Habenero Hot Sauce
When you first found out that you were going to write a cookbook, what recipes immediately came to mind? What were three recipes that you knew you had to share?
Hynam-Smith: Definitely the Master Stock Braised Pork Belly with Green Papaya Salad (pictured on the front cover). it’s a recipe that’s been with me for years, evolving along the way. The Egyptian Egg with Asparagus and Candied Bacon is another favourite, as well as the Battered Cod Taco with Smoked Pineapple and Habenero Hot Sauce. This fish taco is the top selling dish on our food truck, and people have been asking for the recipe since we first served it. It has been on our menu since we opened in 2010. It’s fantastic that it’s still going strong with old and new customers. I used to take them off the menu every now and then to give myself a break from smoking pineapples, but the demand is always so high that now they’re a year-round staple on the menu.
The Egyptian Egg with Asparagus and Candied Bacon
You are both responsible for how street food has blossomed in Ontario. Where do you see it going? Is this bad news for the truck?
Jensen: In Ontario, the focus of street food is largely event-based. There are very few cities within Ontario that allow actual curbside service, and even then, the restrictions are quickly choking out the street food vendors. Elsewhere, street food is booming; it’s not a trend or a fad, it’s evolving through another phase of innovation, becoming an even more diverse and exciting way to get a meal. After lobbying for a few years, we’re very fortunate to have a very supportive and progressive community in Niagara, and there is no shortage of events and opportunities for us to serve.
Was writing a book always a goal for you?
HS: Writing a book was never a goal of mine, but it was hard to say no when the opportunity arose. With my restaurant, travel, and street food background, it seemed like a unique take on a cookbook concept, and an opportunity to share what I’ve been doing for over 20 years.
For Hynam-Smith, it’s a chance to share his culinary influences with the audience. Recipes reflect the time he has spent in Morocco, Thailand and of course homeland Australia. Hynam-Smith does a fine job of showcasing his style of food truck cooking, the recipes are vibrant and spicy.
You’re a big fan of street food. But you’re also one of the only trained chefs cooking in a food truck in the GTHA.
HS: Street food can be whatever you want it to be, so I’ve taken inspiration from the great food I’ve had traveling around the world, the restaurants I’ve worked in since I was 13 years old, and the dishes we’ve experimented with on the food truck over the past five years. I always focus on using high quality ingredients, and I don’t take short cuts; the flavours are bold and authentic.
Popular food truck items like the Hynam-Smith’s green papaya salad, the dukka-crumbed egg, and Phetchaburi fish cakes all get facetime in the book. Probably the most popular item that Hynam-Smith has ever served out his truck window, is also on display. The crispy cod tacos with smoked pineapple habanero hot sauce. It’s a dish that has been often imitated.
Hynam-Smith has also tapped his colleagues for the book, asking fellow chefs and street food pioneers to submit their recipes. There are recipes from Cindy Arman (Babi and Co.), Erik Peacock (Wellington Court), Nathan Young (Ravine Vineyard) and Andrew McLeod (formerly Spencer’s, currently opening a restaurant in downtown St. Catharines). Ten chefs in total are featured in the book.
El Gastro is one of Ontario’s most recognizable food trucks.
Where is street food going? What are you excited about when it comes to street food in Ontario?
HS: I’m seeing a shift away from Americana / BBQ focused trucks in Southern Ontario, which we’ve seen a lot of over the past few years, to a more diverse offering of traditional ethnic foods, and healthier and more refined options. There’s still ample room for a variety of foods, and it really comes down to cooking a great product regardless of the style of food.
A few of the recipes include paid product placement in the ingredient list or photos. Why did you choose to go that route?
We’ve been very fortunate to have brands like Sam Adams, Niagara Oast House Brewers, and Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers as strong supporters of not only our business but the food truck and street food movement in Ontario. Whether it’s through sponsoring food truck events so that it costs less for guests to attend, or providing venues for us to operate and collaborate, these brands have eased the struggle that food truck vendors face in Ontario. Locally speaking, in Niagara, we’ve had a very close working relationship with Niagara Oast House Brewers and Dillon’s since before they opened their doors to the public. They both have a very strong sense of community, and understand how important it is to collaborate with other small businesses in order to succeed and advance the landscape of the Ontario food and drink scene. I wanted to recognize the contributions these brand have made by featuring recipes I’ve made with their products.
You rarely make it into Toronto to cook. Adam, you have an event coming up?
HS: We were connected with Rob [Rossi] through the team at Branding and Buzzing, whom have been massive supporters of our food and street food in general. Rob graciously offered to host us at Bestellen for the book launch in partnership with Samuel Adams Beer. I’ve always jumped at the chance to collaborate with other chefs and I’m excited to feature some dishes from Curbside in a restaurant setting.
What’s the latest on your restaurant?
We’re not saying too much right now, but it’s the primary focus of our attention. We’ve been waiting for the right location for a few years to help bring our unique concept to life, and we’re hoping we’ve found it. We’re not ones to count our chickens before they hatch, and in this industry, anything can happen. We’ll announce details only when things are confirmed 100%, but we’re really aiming to have it up and running in Niagara in 2015.
Curbside is currently available for purchase. You can follow the El Gastro truck on Twitter to learn about their latest popups and events. Tickets to the upcoming collab dinner are still available and can be purchased here.