Gorilla Gourmet, Kalamazoo’s first food truck, has parked itself on the corner of Bellevue and Oakland. Noel Corwin, the truck’s owner and chef, promises food that’s “fresh, flavorful [and] high-value for dollar.”
The food truck is open seven days a week, but without specific hours of operation. “We’re shootin’ for [opening at] 11:00 in the morning and we go until the flavor runs out,” Corwin said.
“We’re always out here droppin’ dirty bombs of flavor, weapons of mass deliciousness,” said Corwin’s business partner and fellow chef Jamie Perkins, who credited Corwin with coining the phrases.
After meeting at Bell’s over a beer, the two chefs decided to work together to bring the food truck concept — a trend that had already become popular in New York and along the West Coast — to Kalamazoo.
“We had the same passion. Together we’re both very creative. We’re both very talented,” Perkins said.
Corwin equipped the kitchen to pack a commercial punch. “There’s ten burners and two ovens,” he said. “That kitchen’s designed by a cook, for a cook.”
Perkins helps operate Gorilla Gourmet, but he and Corwin maintain separate businesses within the truck. Perkins’s contributions to Gorilla Gourmet’s weekly menu come from his own business creation, Ghetto Gourmet Grilled Cheese, or 3GC.
Perkins said he sticks to the maxim, “you can do anything with bread, butter, cheese and whatever’s in between them.”
Corwin channels his passion for “international street food” into creating the rest of Gorilla Gourmet’s ever-changing menu. Some popular staples include vegan soups, steak tacos and the Oberon brat.
Corwin frequently works with local food providers, such as Oakwood Bistro, Richland Meat, La Mexicana and producers from the Bank Street Farmers’ Market, to build his signature dishes.
“We want to be fun with food. We want our job to be fun,” Perkins said. “Especially if we’re going to put all our time and effort into it. It’s a lot of hard work. Ain’t nothin’ free.”
Corwin said getting the word out about his business has been a challenge, but that he’s confident in the product he’s putting out.
“It’s a lot of immediate gratification. I cook for people, they eat in front of me, turn around and say how much they enjoy it,” Corwin said.
“The hardest thing is getting people to try it,” he said. “Once they try it, they’re back.”