Ryan Mailhot, of Stoked Wood Fire Pizza Co., poses with his truck on Tuesday.
Ryan Mailhot, of Stoked Wood Fire Pizza Co., poses with his truck on Tuesday. By Isabella S. Beroutsos

The Secret Life of Harvard's Food Trucks

Despite the competitive nature of the trial period, Stoked Pizza Co. employee Race Ricard says the rivalry has since died off among Plaza food trucks, largely because their cuisines don’t overlap.
By Hannah A. Lemmons and Julia M. Shea

A sudden winter storm has emptied the Science Center Plaza, causing food trucks to roll out earlier than their scheduled departure times—except Bon Me, where workers wearing wool hats and thick sweatshirts brave the cold in order to sell their signature rice bowls.

Bon Me was one of the first businesses to partner with Harvard in 2013, when the Plaza was renovated. Now a mainstay on campus, Bon Me provides advice to newcomer trucks like Stoked Pizza Co.

Stoked Pizza Co. started out as a food truck three years ago before opening a restaurant last April. Last October, looking to expand food options in the Plaza, Harvard invited Stoked, as well as other food trucks, to participate in a trial run. Stoked employee Race Ricard says it felt “almost like a contest.” Harvard students, faculty, and staff sampled food from different trucks, and the three most well-received companies were invited to return to campus on a regular schedule determined by the Harvard Common Spaces Team.

Despite the competitive nature of the trial period, Ricard says the rivalry has since died off among Plaza food trucks, largely because their cuisines don’t overlap.

“We try to offer a range of inclusive dietary choices to ensure that those who are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and halal have options,” says Director of Common Spaces Julie Crites. For Ricard, the diverse community of food trucks feels “almost like a family.”

Stoked Pizza Co. relies on more senior Bon Me for advice. “They’ve been doing this a lot longer than us, so we kind of go to them, and go, ‘During this time, we know school’s not in session. What do you guys do?’” Ricard says. “‘Do you guys even come down here? Do you guys shorten your time? How’s the business?’” Stoked uses that information to determine whether to reduce its hours, or come to campus at all, on wintry days.

Ricard’s favorite part of working on the truck is “when [they’re] busy and [they’re] really, really cranking out pizza.” The worst is when business is slow: “We can only clean so much.”

In addition to advice, Stoked Pizza Co. employees also look to Bon Me for meals. When not eating pizza, Ricard says he gets salad from Bon Me “always.” The two companies routinely trade food after long days. Interactions such as these stand out to Bon Me employee Jack Fahey.

Besides trading food, Fahey looks forward to “the dog that comes by, like, every other breakfast and has one of our devil tea eggs.” Turning to a co-worker, Fahey asks, “Do you remember the name? It’s something like Troy. An epic name.”

Tags
On CampusStudent LifeFood and DrinkSquare BusinessAround Town