August 30, 2012
Tenielle Powers is an experienced entrepreneur so the challenges of starting up a new business are nothing new to her. But how would Dallas Forth Worth respond to her newest venture? Crazy Fish is a food truck that serves sushi with a Texas flair. Intrigued? So were we….
Where did your background and interest in sushi come from?
Well, I lived in Tokyo back in the late 90’s and that’s where my interest started. I lived in Asia for a total of six years; Asian cultures are so intriguing!
Have you always wanted to own your own business? What else have you done professionally?
Yes, I always wanted to own my own business, before this I owned a lounge bar in Singapore and then went on to open one in Australia. Being an entrepeneur started when I had my own Scrunchie business back in the early 80’s, selling Scrunchie hair ties in my high school to the kids in my class. I guess I’ve always been interested in creating and selling products that I make.
What made you decide to go the food truck versus a brick-and-mortar route?
Originally Crazy Fish was set to be a Conveyor Belt style restaurant with a contemporary flair and ‘Texasian-Fusion’. It is hard to fund a start-up restaurant so with the food truck movement really starting to get noticed it seemed like an interesting direction with so much potential.
I think I may suffer from over confidence! Ha! I believe that if you put out a quality product that people will like it. I knew there were some hurdles and I have had plenty of sleepless nights. With a truck if the people aren’t willing to look past some stereotypes and give it a go, we have to ability to move on to another location. Also, just for the record, health codes are pretty strict and we get inspected on any special event and random spot checks, we are completely compliant.
You’ve definitely taken a fun twist on sushi with some menu items that are heavily influenced by your Texas location. Not too many Japanese sushi restaurants serve jalapenos in their rolls. Where do your menu ideas come from?
Our menu ideas come from all different places sometimes customers , and I have named several rolls after people I know. At times during quiet days in the truck we experiment making sauces and roll combinations and come up with fun names that create hilarity and intrigue when potential customers are reading the menu. Its kind of like writing a song… we don’t write it all at once sometimes we have a name or an experience we want to share and all the other parts come together over time when our creative vibes are right. It’s good to keep it fun and have a laugh while you are ordering lunch, don’t you think?
Similarly, your website and brand appear to be all about trying to make sushi ‘accessible’ to everyone – is that what you were trying to achieve with this business?
Yes! Absolutely! I have noticed that many people decided that they don’t like sushi without even trying it. This is very common in Texas. It’s amazing how a free sample can change people’s minds! It’s very exciting to see peoples palates change. I enjoy feeling like I have a part in that.
How permissive is Dallas Fort Worth towards food trucks? What sort of steps did you have to take to get your truck up and running? I can’t imagine the Health Department was too excited about your idea of working with fresh, uncooked, fish on a food truck!
My timing was great with the Dallas health department. The laws recently evolved to create an opportunity for a truck such as mine to get on the road. it’s just one of those things, the stars all aligned correctly for me to get this off the ground. Poor food handling can cause sickness with any kind of meat, it’s not the meat, it’s the handler that’s really the issue.
When did Crazy Fish officially open for business?
May 4th was our first day out! I was so excited I had butterflies all day!
Just like all stereotypes, those Texans don’t just like red meat, a lot of those people are sushi lovers too, it’s just that they sometimes wear cowboy hats… Lol
I love that you offer handmade sauces that enable your customers to be their own ‘sauce master’ – can you tell us a little bit more about these sauces and the role they play in your items.
It’s all about the sauce! I see sushi as a blank canvas to put sauce on, it’s not just all about wasabi and soy sauce at Crazy Fish. Traditional Japanese restaurants dont provide extra sauces, you have to ask. I think living in the US is all about abundance and choice so I like to put the choice in the hands of the customer. Needles to say it’s been a big hit.
Has there been one part of running your food truck business that you didn’t anticipate or that’s surprised you?
Yes absolutely. Learning the truck. I did not anticipate all the different pieces of information I need to be aware of. It is really interesting all the moving parts and details of my truck. Truck safety it very important to us. I never anticipated that the wind of a semi-trailer can knock you out of your lane, or that they will sideswipe you on the freeway and just keep going… (yes this actually happened to us!) For information on food truck safety please visit this great website foodtrucksaftey411 .com
Taking that last question one step further – what’s been your favorite part of starting and running your own food truck business?
When people get completely excited to see that you are there (in front of them) sometimes people go giddy with excitement, that’s the most awesome part.