Taking It to the Streets
CAS alum’s food truck delivers bold flavors
In January of last year, Alison Fong bought a used DHL delivery truck from a man known as Big Jim. She then drove the truck to a Connecticut company that specializes in installing restaurant-grade kitchen equipment in spaces originally designed for overnight packages.
Buying and outfitting their truck was the first tangible step for Fong (CAS’01) and her husband, Patrick Lynch, in turning their business plan into business reality. Today, their Bon Me food truck—still painted a cheery DHL yellow—parks in Boston’s Dewey Square at lunchtime and on Commonwealth Avenue (near BU’s Morse Auditorium or near the College of Fine Arts) in the afternoons and evenings, serving up banh mi sandwiches and other Vietnamese-inspired fare to hungry passersby.
Fong had her sights set on law school when she graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences sociology program just over a decade ago, but an uninspiring stint as a paralegal and an interest in cooking led her to enroll in New York’s Culinary Institute of America instead. She then worked in several New York and Boston restaurants (some with kitchens no bigger than her 8-by-14-foot truck) before taking a job at Brimmer and May, a private K–12 school in Newton, Mass. There, she was director of food services, determinedly adding asparagus, quinoa, and wheat berry to the cafeteria’s customary carrots, peas, and pasta.
In late 2010, Fong and Lynch stumbled across an advertisement for the city of Boston’s Food Truck Challenge, a contest designed to bring healthy food options to Boston’s nascent food truck scene. Longtime lovers of mobile dining, they entered the challenge and were thrilled (and a little daunted) when their Bon Me concept was named one of three winners. With guidance and technical assistance from the city, they opened their truck for business in April 2011, with Fong acting as head chef—preparing food every evening in a rented Boston-area kitchen—and Lynch, a former Wall Street derivatives trader, handling day-to-day business affairs.
Fong has learned to master the most difficult part of running a food truck: remembering to put everything on the truck. “If we forget to bring our ecofriendly rice bowl containers, then we can’t serve our rice bowls—even if we have all the dozen things that go into the rice bowl—because we literally don’t have anything to put them in,” she says. To avoid such mishaps, she’s developed very specific routines—and checklists, lots of checklists.
Such diligence has led to consistently good food service and a loyal clientele, including Kelsey Shaw (CAS’12), who recently stopped at Bon Me for a bowl of noodle soup to warm her up between classes. “I’m obsessed with this truck,” she confesses. “It’s convenient, and I also think it’s pretty healthy. I love the flavors, and the people on the truck are really friendly.” Her favorite Bon Me dish is the noodle salad with chicken and soba noodles, she says, “but I think I’ve had everything on the menu—and I like it all.”
“We’ve had really amazing reception to our food and our brand during our first year of business,” Fong says. Bon Me’s 2011 revenues exceeded initial projections by more than 50 percent. In fact, the response has been so good that Fong left her job at Brimmer and May. She and her husband are preparing to open their first brick-and-mortar Bon Me restaurant, in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, early next year.
Watch a video about the popular food trucks on BU’s campus, including Alison Fong’s Bon Me, here.
A version of this story appeared in the spring 2012 edition of Arts & Sciences.1 Comments