Hardly strictly bagels | New year brings a goodbye from local Jewish food truck

  Three years after starting the Bay Area’s first Jewish food truck, owner and chef Kenny Hockert announced last week that his Old World Food Truck has reached the end of the road.

The truck, which served “East European and Jewish soul food,” was known for chicken schnitzel sandwiches, Reuben tacos, pierogi and a Sloppy Joe sandwich made with pulled brisket (and tabbed, for better or for worse, a “Sloppy Jew”).

“I started right around Rosh Hashanah three years ago,” Hockert said. “So it’s sort of a good time to bring it to an end.”

The business opened to the public with a pop-up Hanukkah dinner in 2011, then hit the streets as a food truck in May 2012. A fixture at food truck gatherings in San Francisco and nearby cities,  the truck halted service to the public on Sept. 4. Delivery and catering are available for the next four to six months, and Hockert said he might go out “with a last hurrah” — a Hanukkah pop-up dinner.

 

Kenny Hockert

“I’m getting married in November,” Hockert, 41, explained, “so the timing [of ending the business] was related to that, plus just wanting to reset my life a little bit.”

 

Hockert and his fiancée, Kathryn McKinney, plan to move to Brooklyn, N.Y., early next year. She will continue working in the museum/arts field, while Hockert — a Jewish New York native — will look for work as a chef. His long-term goals include having a family, a home 45-60 miles outside of Manhattan, and his own sandwich shop or small eatery.

Hockert issued a sweet goodbye note at OldWorldFoodTruck.com, noting that he has “gained great satisfaction and nachas [joy]” from introducing diners to Old World favorites, and that he enjoyed how so many local Jews were “proud to see their culture’s food represented.”

But did he enjoy the amount of work? Not exactly. From shopping to administration chores, from cooking to keeping customers updated on social media, Hockert routinely worked 80-hour weeks; in one stretch, he worked 60 of 61 days. “I don’t think of it as a badge of honor,” he intoned. “It wore on me.”

Business did double in the past year, however, and Hockert hired more employees and said he was able to make a “decent living.” Moreover, his truck was well received, getting a recent mention in a New York Times article on Jewish delis and being named one of the Top 12 San Francisco food trucks of 2014 by the blog SFist last week.

The truck’s aim was to infuse classic Jewish food with a modern spin. The schnitzelwich, for example, featured a fried chicken cutlet with homemade horseradish aoli and cabbage slaw on an Acme roll. It showed up on several “Bay Area’s best sandwiches” lists.

Many food trucks prefer to keep things simple, but not the Old World truck. “We were one of the most detail-oriented, from-scratch operations out there,” Hockert said.

One of Hockert’s goals was to make inroads into the Jewish community, which he accomplished. He had gigs at JCCs in Palo Alto and San Rafael, worked one Israel in the Gardens and also catered more than 20 Jewish weddings and b’nai mitzvahs. He also catered for agencies such as the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

But, said Hockert, noting his hectic public and catering schedule, “I was not able to do as much [with the Jewish community] as I would have liked.”

Many food trucks have come and gone in the last three years, so Hockert is proud of his run. He thought about selling the business, but decided against it because no one has the passion or capability to “run it the way I would want to see it continue.”

By the way, he will not be catering his own wedding.

 

 

 

Bob Jaffe and a 10-pound challah photo/ken katz

 

LEFTOVERS: Many local Jewish restaurants, bakeries and kosher markets have sent us notices about catering for the High Holy Days, so check with your favorites for details … One  announcement of a Rosh Hashanah dinner comes from Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco; it’s at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the deli on 24th Street and costs $80 per person. For information, visit www.wisesonsdeli.com … Another comes from Saul’s Deli in Berkeley. Rosh Hashanah reservations are being taken for Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 at (510) 848-DELI … One of the more intriguing High Holy Days catering options is an 8- or 10-pound challah from Grand Bakery in Oakland. Owner Bob Jaffe says people order them year-round, and that they serve 8-10 people per pound at a buffet, or 20 people per pound for hamotzi. Call the bakery at (510) 465-1110 for more info … Augie’s Montreal Smoke Meat sold out in only two hours at its last pop-up, on Labor Day, at Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Oakland. Another pop-up is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15, and the smoked brisket sandwiches should last longer since it isn’t a holiday.  … Saul’s Deli in Berkeley is touting its gluten-free bagels from Odd Bagel for Rosh Hashanah or break-fast meals. Look for sesame and plain, but supplies are very limited until demand increases. Call Saul’s at (510) 848-3354 for availability. Sauls, by the way, will close at 6 p.m. and remain shut on Oct. 4 for Yom Kippur.

 

 

 

 

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Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.