Blade & Wave food truck takes menu collab on the road

“I'm not really just a food truck. I'm a chef who owns a food truck, that can do anything.” - Chef Chris Knowles

5 min read
Blade & Wave food truck takes menu collab on the road
Chris Knowles stands in front of his food truck Blade & Wave. Courtesy: Chris Knowles

By Pam Morales Worsham | For The Prep

Welcome to Blade & Wave, a symphony of flavors on wheels, delighting taste buds from the historic town of St. Augustine to the vibrant city of Jacksonville in St. Johns County, Florida.

Sure, it’s a food truck, but it’s also so much more.

At the helm is Chris Knowles, a seasoned fine dining chef with over two decades of experience, including roles at Nordstrom Restaurants and Coco Bambu. Driven by his passion for culinary arts and a strong desire for more family time, he launched his own mobile culinary venture nearly four years ago. With innovative dishes that transcend the confines of a designated parking spot, he aims to bring a unique dining experience wherever he goes.

“I'm not really just a food truck. I'm a chef who owns a food truck, that can do anything,” Knowles said.

The charismatic culinary artiste thrives in running his mobile kitchen venture, serving up flavorful delights at art studios, golf tournaments and silent discos, all with an experimental flair. Recently, he impressed a brewery client by crafting branded pretzels from their very own malted grains. The downside?

“We sold out so fast.  I really didn't expect to sell 55 pretzels in an hour,” said Knowles, laughing.

While the thrill of each new day keeps Knowles on his toes, his true joy comes from the collaborative process of crafting specialized menus with clients. For instance, when a bride and groom requested empanadas for the start of their wedding reception, Knowles took it a step further by also creating Bananas Foster empanadas as a nightcap dessert.

“I really love communicating with the clients, just the whole conceptualization of the menus with them,” he said. 

He acknowledges that not all events will guarantee big profits, yet he recognizes their long-term value beyond immediate financial gains. 

“It's the residual of it. Yes, it's going to cost me a lot of money to do some of these events, but I know how to shop.  And all of these events have people who refer other people, like executives and CEOs around town,” said Knowles.

In fact, this word-of-mouth marketing strategy is how he secured an online Amazon team-building event. Talk about innovation! Knowles sent each member an Amazon cart populated with all the food needed to prepare a meal and ingredients for libations. He utilized a DIY multi-cam setup with sensors to showcase his cutting board, stove and movement around the kitchen.

“At the end, everybody sent a picture of the finished dishes, and my friend made a nice video of it. They all made a really beautiful dinner together. It was team-building at its best,” said Knowles. 

Even amid the unpredictable twists each day brings, Knowles maintains a steady vibe that both grounds him and drives him forward.

“Try to do better every single day. I always try to live by that. Control your energy. You can be upset for five minutes or five days. You choose. So always think of the positives,” Knowles attests.

Chef Chris Knowles owns Blade & Wave food truck in Florida. Courtesy: Chris Knowles

Here’s a deeper dive into how Blade & Wave cooks up success.

Q: What are the best things about running a food truck:

A: The freedom, the creativity and social aspect of it. I get to work when I want and take my kids on the food truck with me to work. They all know how to take orders and get tons of tips. So, they love it. 

I have that creativity to change my menu. Anything from a burger to filet, to a whole pig to oyster roast. You know, sometimes people say, ‘You're going to change your menu? That's a lot of work.’ And I'm like, no, it's actually a lot less work. I buy and cross-utilize things. What I did in the beginning is I kind of would make things and test them by freezing it and seeing how long I could freeze that product, to keep the same quality as if it was freshly made. I also take a plate, change the sauce just a little bit and call then it something else. It’s all creativity.

And the social aspect. It's like I love talking to people. I want to tell everybody about everything I can do or whatever things I've done. They’ll remember that warmth. People will remember how you made them feel. 

Q: What’s your secret sauce?

A: The way I run the operation. I focus on quality and customer satisfaction, making sure that they get their money's worth or that I over-exceed their expectations. The cost management is also done really well. I control the cost by cross-utilizing products, thinking outside of the box and using lesser expensive items. I’m good at making plates fancier or doing my little twist on them so I could upcharge a little more.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face?

A: Having more time to put into marketing because I'm more concentrated on the food. Like the social media aspect. I see how social media is helping a lot of other people with food trucks. For me it's a challenge to do that because it takes a little bit more time and thought. It's just finding the right moment to do it.

I would also say needing more space and storage is a challenge. I want to weigh the options of expanding. How to get more out of what I've got because I'm pretty much almost maxing out at what I can do. But I did just do a wedding for 150 people out of that little food truck. As long as I properly plan and go to the store multiple times a week, buying what I need for just those couple days, then I’m OK.

Overall, for all the challenges that I could face, I always try to have a Plan B in action and maybe sometimes a Plan C for when things don't go the right way.

Q: What are some essentials for those curious about launching a food truck?

A: Find out who the best operating trucks in the area are and look at their menus. See how long their lines are, look at the way they're presenting themselves when they're talking to people. And then try to get them to be your mentor. 

Just do your research. Wire your brain into thinking outside the box on everything and utilizing your talents for what they are. 

Be flexible with your clients’ needs. Be open for change with anything that happens because it's a mobile kitchen, and I mean anything can happen when you're driving down this new road.

*This interview has been edited for clarity.

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