NASHVILLE, TN - In a way, Carlos Davis and B.J. Lofback couldn’t be more Nashville. Neither of them is from here, of course, and their food truck — Riffs Fine Street Food — is named after slang for musical improv.
Davis, of Barbados, and Lofback, of Detroit, met in Nashville last May during a flood relief effort and soon joined forces to bring street food to our city.
“I had been building this truck for a couple of years,” Lofback said. “After reading about Kogi BBQ (food truck) in L.A., I thought, ‘Oh, yeah. I’ve got to do this.’ ”
Riffs hit the streets of Music City officially in May, and the two chefs have already gathered a following for both their gregarious personalities and their vagabond cuisine, from their Thai noodle salad to jerk chicken and the Caribbean burger.
The chefs also are leading the way on Food Truck Tuesdays, a weekly event that gathers five or so food trucks in the parking lot of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Ten percent of sales will go directly to the hunger relief organization (which provides four meals for every dollar). Follow the Riffs Twitter feed and Facebook page for event details, as well as the truck’s whereabouts throughout the week.
“Food is just as much a creative outlet as music is,” Lofback said. “I’m an amateur musician, as well. I get the same feeling, the same joy. That’s what it comes down to with us. We’re just jamming.”
How did you learn to cook?
Davis: Mine started when I was about 6 years old at home with my mom. She would be coming home late from work. Me and my brother put a whole chicken in the oven. That was our first dinner. I remember baking a lot. A lot of what I do, like the jerk seasoning, I learned all along the way.
I went to culinary school and all that, then the last 10 years, I’ve been working at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. So just learning and sharing. … It was hard to leave, but now this is more about personal expression.
Lofback: I came from a household that was not full of inspired cooks. That’s a nice way of saying my mom was a horrible cook. I busted out a very dusty Betty Crocker cookbook at, like, 8 years old. I really was just looking for the ones with a little bit of ingredients, and I cooked it, and it was good.
I’m a culinary school dropout. I couldn’t handle a football coach, and I couldn’t handle the crazy cooks in the kitchen. I worked in restaurants for about seven years right out of high school. Then I found more ways to make money on the Internet. Emeril Lagasse and Alton Brown taught me a ton. The Internet was fabulous for learning. Then as soon as I read that article about Kogi BBQ (on the website Serious Eats), it was instantaneous. I knew this was it.
What ingredient could you not live without?
Davis: I’d have to say ginger. We make a fresh tea from it. It’s used heavily in our Asian food. It’s an ingredient in our jerk seasoning. It’s just a root that’s overall really, really good for you.
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