L.A. is blessed with all kinds of food truck gatherings: There are trucks around the beach and at festivals, trucks at movie screenings and concerts, trucks at massive First Friday parties and gallery openings. But this Friday, there’s a food truck bash unlike any other: an all-ages extravaganza at a 70,000-square-foot arts incubator/“creative compound” that was formerly a Japanese confectioner/mochi factory.
The event is the one-year anniversary of The Container Yard, an Arts District venue that’s opening to the public for the first time, and it will feature art, music, and food vendors, including Grand Central Market smash Sticky Rice, Seoul Sausage, San Diego Poke Co., and El Paraiso.
But the most intriguing intersection of food and creativity and commerce at this blowout might be an appearance from French sandwich slinger Monsieur Madame, whose founder famously quit his high-profile PIMCO fund-manager gig to enter the street-eats industry. Since then, PIMCO went through a major management shakeup and lured Jeremie Banet back—but Banet and his wife Nissa continue to operate their food truck.
Banet, who lives in an Orange County beach town, admits that it would probably make more sense for him to spend his downtime chilling on the sand with his young children.
“It’s a lot of stubborness,” he says when asked how this truck happened. “I don’t even remember. I thought it was a good idea, we started it, and we just wanted to make it happen. Sometimes, you don’t have to know the reason.”
This is a guy who’s forged a great living making million-dollar bets and is now slaving away behind the grill on his days off, serving croque monsieurs with locally made French-style ham, cheese that’s “90 percent imported from France” along with some Jarlsberg, and, perhaps most crucial, bread from Yannick Guegan of Santa Ana’s Bread Artisan Bakery, who “wakes up every night” to start baking.
“There is something very gratifying about preparing food,” says Banet, who quickly bonded with fellow Frenchman Guegan over his artisanal food truck concept. “At first, the idea was kind of a weird hobby I had a deep connection with, and then it just became a challenge and now I kind of like it, surprisingly. I got my old job back, that’s where the balance is coming from. I’ve got this thing on the side that makes me really proud of what I’m doing.”
The Banets have conversations every couple weeks or so about whether they should shut down the truck.
“It’s not like we need to do it, people will understand if we fail,” Banet says. “I think the logical thing would be to go to the beach and enjoy my family. But there’s always something that brings you back in, someone who comes and loves the food that gives you the energy to keep trying. I’ll be honest, it’s been tough. The truck comes with a lot of inconveniences, like finding a spot. Some days aren’t great when it’s the wrong demographics. But I like the nomad part of being a truck, you always meet new people.”
Banet is looking forward to Friday. The Container Yard hopes to bring in a crowd of more than 500 people, so there should be a lot of art-minded, food-loving revelers who might want an oozing ham-and-cheese sandwich prepared in the classic French style.
“I’ve been pretty happy to fly under the radar, and Nissa was happy I was being discreet about it,” says Banet, who has largely avoided marketing and doing interviews about his mobile food venture, which made its L.A. debut in February. “I think it’s time for the truck to expose ourself a little more.”
The Container Yard’s One-Year Anniversary, Friday, June 19, 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., entrance at 412 Seaton St. Admission is $5, with a portion of proceeds benefiting Self Help Graphics (a non-profit dedicated to developing fine art, visual art, and printmaking in the Latino community). Food and drink is available for purchase.