There are few people who know exactly what they want to do as a kid. There are even fewer who have a dream and then work to make that dream a reality.
That’s how it started for Jonah Goldstein, the founder of Thai trailer and mobile food concept Aroy Thai.
After going to culinary school and earning his chops at several of San Francisco’s more reputable restaurants, Jonah took a leap of faith and started his own business.
Here’s the story on how Jonah launched his food business, challenges he overcame and what he learned.
1. How did you initially become interested in the food business?
As a young kid, I was always fascinated by the kitchen. I grew up obsessed with the Food Network chefs like Mario Batali and Bobby Flay. I would cook for family and friends whenever possible, and eventually my dream became opening my own restaurant. I decided to commit to Santa Barbara Community College culinary arts program after high school, which taught me extensive things about the kitchen. My favorite class was butchery. We would break down whole animals on a regular basis. I then moved back to San Francisco to continue towards my dream. I worked in restaurants such as Cockscomb, Pizzeria Delfina, and Out the Door to hone my skills. Around this time I made multiple trips to Southeast Asia as well, my love for Thai began after these trips. I felt the urge to start doing my own thing, so I started doing popups with Feastly. After popups for a few years, I decided to take the next step, which was starting a food trailer.
2. Why did you decide to start your mobile food concept?
It’s always been my dream to start my own restaurant. I felt like starting a food trailer was a good bridge to get to that goal. It’s taught me immensely about certain things about the kitchen that I didn’t know before. I also felt like starting a food trailer during the covid pandemic was also a good idea cause people felt a lot more comfortable eating outside.
3. What’s your cooking philosophy?
My cooking philosophy is simple: put the best food out for the customer. Cooking food to order in a food truck isn’t extremely common, but I do this because it’s how I’ve been taught. It’s the best way to execute delicious food.
4. What are the biggest unknown challenges of running a food truck in the Bay Area?
Biggest challenges include finding highly profitable locations on a consistent basis. It’s also finding staff that are willing to commute to certain locations regularly. I serve at various locations throughout San Francisco, so staff have to meet me in different locations on a regular basis. The covid pandemic temporarily eliminated the downtown area from being a place to serve because of everyone working from home.
5. What are some changes that your truck has made because of the pandemic?
Well, we started during the height of the pandemic, so there were certain locations when we first started that were ghost towns. I can remember specific locations that I didn’t sell a single thing at.
6. What’s your favorite dish at your food truck? And what’s your favorite dish at another food truck?
My favorites include the Khao Soi (curry noodle soup), pork belly with rice cakes, fried chicken sandwich, brisket tacos, and the pad kee mao with chinese sausage. A couple other favorite food trucks of mine include Al Pastor Papi, I’m a big fan of his al pastor torta and burritos. Also a big fan of Lomo Libre, their take on Peruvian food is awesome and I love their burritos.
7. What’s something that sets your business apart from other food businesses?
Well, I’m the only Thai food trailer in San Francisco. So that definitely sets me apart, and that’s a big reason why I decided to do a Thai food business. I felt there was a lack of good Thai food in San Francisco. I also serve dishes that you can’t find easily at certain Thai restaurants, such as khao soi. I also have dishes that I came up with on my own, such as the pork belly with rice cakes and the brisket tacos.
8. What advice would you give someone who wants to start a food truck?
Be prepared to work long hours! I’m there every single time we serve the public, and I haul the trailer with my truck. I would also have some money saved up even for after you buy the truck. There’s gonna be some rough months initially financially and you can’t expect to start making money right away. It’s a very competitive industry. Also be prepared to work every station on your food truck, dishwasher, line cook, and register. You never know when somebody might not show up for a shift, you have to be able to think fast on your feet.
If you want to find Aroy Thai, look for them at Off the Grid markets and see their full schedule here.