A local teacher has found a creative way to give two of his students practical work experience by assisting them in starting their own food truck business.
Stephen Bloch, who has spent 16 years of his 20-year teaching career at the University School of Milwaukee, says he’s always loved cooking.
"My mother always had me cooking with her," Bloch remembers. "I did some work in restaurants and catering on a very part time basis, and I lived in Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) with a girlfriend for a year while she was at the Culinary Institute of America, so I got to hang out with chefs."
For 10 years, Bloch taught cooking classes for both kids and adults during the summer months. And now he’s taken his culinary passion in a new direction, by starting a food truck with two of his students, Marshall Lerner and Zach Nelsen.
"Jay Lerner, Marshall’s dad, and I constantly talk about food, cooking and eating," Bloch says. "We’ve tossed around the idea of opening a restaurant, but after attending a food truck event last year, we decided that mobile food might be something we could do part time as more of a hobby."
Bloch says he thought the venture would be good work experience for his students, who are both adventurous eaters and avid cooks.
"We started practicing recipes and doing taste tests in the Lerner’s kitchen and then went on a nationwide hunt for a truck or trailer," Bloch goes on. "Jay’s brother has lived in Thailand for 20 years, and we’ve done lots of international travel, so the concept just stuck."
The venture took six months, but Bloch says they’re nearing their goal of getting the trailer painted, permitted and inspected. And he anticipates the food truck will hit the streets in late May, where it will offer internationally inspired fare three or four days a week during the lunch hour at popular spots like the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Catalano Square, the U.S. Bank Building and Schlitz Park.
"We will be looking into farmers markets and places outside of Downtown, as well," he says.
The name for the truck – a play on words incorporating the Spanish word for chicken – was a result of brainstorming, says Bloch.
"We knew we were doing international dishes and somehow the name Marco Pollo came into my head," he says. "He was an international traveler who explored the areas from which we glean inspiration for our dishes."
Marco Pollo will offer a variety of international chicken dishes, piled high over jasmine rice and served with a rotation of authentic from "scratch" sauces including
- "Siam I am," featuring vegetables with sweet and sassy Thai dynamite sauce
- "The Taj," with vegetables, scallions and creamy yellow coconut curry sauce
- "The Big Easy," with Louisiana-style Creole sauce, green peppers, onions and celery
- "Medium-Hot Buffalo," with Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce, blue cheese dressing and celery sticks
- "Marcosito’s Plato," with homemade queso, ranchero sauce and sour cream
- "Buddha’s Delight," with tangy Chinese orange glaze, vegetable medley and sesame seeds.
- "Little Tokyo," with Japanese style teryaki-katsu and ponzu sauces and then garnished with sesame seeds and pickled veggies.
Bloch says that the truck will feature five or six offerings per day, along with fried chicken and a daily selection of gourmet deviled eggs.
More information and updates can be found on the Marco Pollo Facebook page.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.