Food Truckers across the nation
are working together to
rebuild the Teddy Malibu truck.
My name is Kyle Pounders. I am the chef and owner of Excaliburger, a food truck which is based in Little Rock but travels nationally.
I started with a dollar and a dream. More dreams than dollars for sure, and although that was 2009 - ten years ago this fall - not much has changed. I got a second job, saved enough to get a griddle, and started taking that sucker all over the South selling cheeseburgers and telling everyone what I was going to do someday. That led to a busted food truck in 2012 which took three years to rebuild. October 3, 2015 Excaliburger opened to the public at the Main Street Food Truck Festival and has been slangin' burgs ever since.
June 2017 I left on a two month tour of the United States. The intended route was to go through the Great American West, to the Pacific Northwest, Down the Pacific Coast, Straight across the country on I40 to North Carolina, up the Atlantic Seaboard, then back home to Arkansas through Appalachia and the Midwest.
All was going well until my Mom's big birthday bash in Hawaii we had been planning and saving towards for years was canceled because of Hurricane Lane. Then I had a wheel fall off the food truck in a 1 lane roundabout outside Seattle during rush hour. Three weeks later I was ready to sprint across the country to Dreamville, which was canceled while I was driving through Utah due to another hurricane.
Pissed at hurricanes and unwilling to let this one win, I asked my people if anyone wanted to buy a cheeseburger for someone in North Carolina. $10k later I got to go to go to Havelock, NC and play Santa Claus for a bit. When the big red burger bag ran out I stayed a bit longer with personal resources. When it was time to head to DC Hurricane Michael poked its head up. The Craven County Fire Department named Excaliburger a fire truck, the townspeople loaded me down with gas, money, food, and diapers then sent me south.
I got to Florida and gave away everything I could give without becoming the one in need. As I was about to head north to DC I was stopped by some people claiming to be with an organization called World Central Kitchen.
I told them to piss off. All the organizations I had seen so far were serving demoralizing shit for food; especially the Red Cross, whom I trusted before I got into disaster relief. The others were not much better. "I'd rather get out of the way than to attach my name to NPO trash." I said.
Then they claimed to be chefs. They even claimed to be there under the legend himself Chef Jose Andres. Bold. I had a feeling that either these were my people and we would soon become BFFs forever forever - orrrrrrr that I was going to burn the place down. 50/50 were good odds for me at the time so I told them I'd swing by.
When I got to World Central Kitchen the first thing I saw was an old lady slicing parsley. I thought immediately of Anthony Bourdain, my central inspiration for leaving back in June to go on this wild adventure. In his breakout book Kitchen Confidential Chef Bourdain listed chiffonade parsley specifically as one of the reasons chefs in restaurants can cook better food than you can at home. And there she was, a gal who probably couldn't lift over 20 lbs. but she could chop parsley!
It was a sign of things to come. Everything I learned about WCK after that was the real deal. Go watch the music video for Blind Melon's song No Rain; I am the little girl and WCK is the field at the end of the music video. The whole experience was euphoric.
A month later I was burg slangin at a skate park in Detroit when I saw Miley Cyrus come on TV to talk about her house burning down. I sent a message to Nate Mook, the director of WCK, asking if Los Angeles needed another food truck.
Be careful what you joke about, especially when it comes to Jose Andres getting people fed.
Mommagirl said I could go to Chico under two conditions: that I be home for Christmas and that I wear a face mask to protect myself from the smoke inhalation. When I got to Northern California they gave me a face mask and an empty parking lot next to FEMA in the old Toys-R-Us parking lot. In a few days time we had a free food court up and running. There was a daily rotation of food trucks and produce farmers from as far as a few hundred miles away, all there to give free healthy delicious food to people who had just lost everything.
One day a week into the project I and another volunteer named Megan set up a cookie decorating station for the kids. She came up to me halfway through the day and said "There's a guy here with his wife and kids. He had a food truck on Paradise."
My memories move very slowly after that. I couldn't imagine losing my baby to flames and I don't even have anyone else to support. He didn't seem to like talking about it but he showed me a picture. It Hauntingly, it looked almost exactly like the Excaliburger truck. I saw a balloon recently on which someone had written "This is how fragile your life is." Seeing that picture took me to a deeper understanding of what those words mean; if the wind had been blowing a little differently that day he would be at work right now. A little breeze in the other direction and my truck is gone. So if it's all about to pop anyways why not take a risk?
We talked for a while and I complimented his children on their cookies. "Let me get your number before you leave, I'll see if we can find any help for you." I said as they were getting out of there.
But I knew there wasn't any help for this kind of situation. There are certain step up times in life that are particularly difficult. We see other people step up all the time, and in the tough times especially we are all looking for that perfect someone to step in and do something. If they're a great leader or it's a great cause we might even follow. But what about the times like this where I am getting my heart ripped out by these kids and a dad who has lost the dignity of being able to provide for his family? and there's nobody there to do something?
If you ever find yourself asking those questions, please take a step back and very honestly ask yourself the question "What if this is my turn to step up?"
So here we are. I'm a bit terrified right now to be honest - it's a serious thing to look a man in the eye with his family behind him and say "I'm going to get you your tools back so you can return to work." But that's exactly what I said to him. So screw my feelings, it's time to follow through. The food truck community has demonstrated massive forward payments amongst its members and I have every reason to think we can work together to help Jose and his Wife get back on their feet.
Who knows what's next? It very well may be my food truck or yours that gets gotten by the next fire or tornado or hurricane. We know for sure it's just a matter of time before one of our generators gets jacked. Again. Maybe just maybe this could turn into something bigger than any of us could know to expect. Food trucks do have a particularly useful skill set, and their owners a particular breed of crazy. I wonder what could happen if we decided to put our crazy together?
We'll start with the buttons for now. I really hope you'll want to be a part.
And if you have any crazy ideas that seem a little to wild to mention comfortably, please PLEASE do the world a favor and don't keep it to yourself. We need yo weird ass self, ya hear me?
Q: How can we keep up to date with this project?
A: Twitter.com/excaliburger_ or blog.foodtrucksforteddy.com
Q: Who is in charge here?
A: Howdy! My name is Kyle Pounders. My food truck Excaliburger and I are from Little Rock, Arkansas but travel nationally. At the end of last summer I used the food truck as a disaster response vehicle through hurricane season and into some late-season California wildfires.
Q: What is Jose doing now?
A: We are currently getting the Excaliburger rig up to California code and Jose will be running it as Teddy Malibu until we can get him another food truck. If anyone has a fire suppression system sitting around let me know.
Q: What are you going to do with the money?
A: Get him jump started with Excaliburger as Teddy Malibu so he can start working again then build him a new food truck.
Q: Can we donate equipment?
A: Maybe. Let us know what you've got - if it's something we need it would be greatly appreciated. Email Boom Dickson email@example.com
Q: Can I help on build day?
A: Maybe. Hit up Boom - firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Can we do a story on this?
A: Maybe. Please contact Excaliburger's public relations department for a all media inquiries - email@example.com
Q: Can I support financially without getting any buttons?
A: We hope you will grab some buttons and help spread the word, but if you prefer to remain silent help you may do so as follows:
Q: Can non-food trucks sell buttons.
A: A lot of people have been asking that same question actually so although that's not a thing yet, we may have that option soon. See the "Friends of Food Trucks" section on our Help Out page for more.
Q: Can I get a tax deduction for my donation?
A: Equipment donations and significant cash donations will be given a 501(c)(3) tax deductible receipt.
Q: What is a "significant donation"?
A: If it is significant to you it is significant to us. Let us know that it's important and we've got ya coming. Resources just aren't there to issue a receipt for every $5 donation that comes through.
Q: Can I book Teddy Malibu for a private event?
A: Send all booking requests to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: What if I can sell more than a hundred?
A: C'MON LETS GO! Just let me know how many more to send and I'll get ya.
Q: What if I don't sell a hundred buttons?
A: You can sell a hundred buttons.
Q: But what if I can't?
A: Transfer what you made and send what you don't sell back so I can give them to someone who can. I'll pay for shipping.