In 2015, Off the Grid launched Instrucktional, with the aim of transforming the passions of local food entrepreneurs into thriving, independent businesses. With Google’s partnership, entrepreneurs are helping to build a new vision for corporate catering, where an existing expectation of impeccable quality is infused with entrepreneurial spirit, drive, care and individualism.

Instrucktional is a 2-year, paid incubator program for culinary entrepreneurs that provides a rigorous curriculum, including business and marketing training, on-site recipe development and culinary mentorships, access to a fully equipped food truck or mobile space, and a customized business and financial plan. Through a strategic partnership with Google, Instrucktional has provided more than 10 small business owners with the necessary tools to catapult their ventures from concept to creation after program completion. Promoting diversity and inclusion was at the forefront of this mission from its inception, not only through the personal narratives of program participants, but also a diverse range of cuisines and culinary perspectives.

Instrucktional Entrepreneur: Elizabeth Miranda of Postrique

As Intrucktional’s very first entrepreneur, Elizabeth joined in 2015 at the birth of the program. After discovering a passion for pastry and desserts during several years in the food industry, she entered a brand new program that challenged her to flex her culinary muscles and create savory menus, as well.

To learn more about Elizabeth’s experience as an Instrucktional entrepreneur, and how Postrique came to life, we asked her a few questions about her experience:


What was particularly appealing to you about the Instrucktional program when you applied?

The idea of ironing out the vision for my own company. My father’s side of the family is very entrepreneurial, and I was always encouraged to grow my own business, but I could never narrow down exactly what I wanted to create in the food industry. My mom would always ask me, “are you going to make cupcakes? Or cakes?” And I would say, “I like doing that, but it isn’t my only interest.” 

Figuring out what my heart wanted was a fun aspect, and upon reflection, I’ve realized that what I enjoyed most was the way I embraced my culture. 


What was the original inspiration behind your food truck concept?

Since I was the first participant, I was encouraged to create a concept that was savory. At first I wanted to solely do desserts, but I was able to turn my ideas into something more fitting for lunch service—but would still allow me to mix in some sweet. 

This is how I landed on Churros. A good example is the CHURROquiles (inspired by Mexican chilaquiles), piped flat instead of star shaped, coated in a savory spice instead of cinnamon sugar, and served with salsa, crema, queso Cotija and seared steak or a fried egg. With this savory dish established, I was then able to add traditional churros to the menu, with fun dipping sauces like Mexican hot chocolate or strawberry lime sauce. 


How was the name for your concept created?

We played a lot with names, with many of them containing the word “churro”. I knew I didn’t want to include any one item in the name, to avoid being limited to that item for the rest of the business’s existence. I then began playing with the word “postre” (Spanish for “dessert”). I also wanted to convey that the desserts would be inspired by my Mexican heritage, so I added the word “Mexique” which is French for “Mexico”.  Postre + Mexique = Postrique, meaning Mexican Dessert. I love it completely!


What was the design process like for creating the look and feel of your brand? 

This was an incredibly fun part of the program. I brought several scrapbook pages of colors, textures, fonts and images that inspired me and my future brand to our graphic designer—lots of watercolor images, pastels, cacti, florals. This was completely different from all the other existing food trucks in the program, and we were excited to create something so different!

During the menu design process, were there any tasting discoveries or surprises?

Creating this unique menu required a lot of tastings and a lot of open mindedness. Many people love churros, so convincing them that they can be savory was quite interesting. Their facial expressions and initial reactions to tasting savory churros was priceless.


If you can choose one… what’s your favorite dish you developed over the course of your time as an Instrucktional entrepreneur?

The most fun item, and a key staple dessert in my brand is the “Concha Cookie.” It’s inspired by the Concha Pan Dulce (sweet bread with shell design on top), but turned into a cookie with fun new colors. Concha is arguably the most recognizable Mexican sweet bread, so this is one people love to taste, enjoy and share!


When not at her day job with Off the Grid as an Assistant Operations Manager, Elizabeth runs Postrique as a catering and pop-up company. Eventually, Elizabeth hopes to expand into a full dessert and coffee service: “Seeing guests enjoy my desserts over good coffee, company and conversation would be a joy, and a very familiar tradition for ‘Pan Dulce y un cafecito’.”


Instrucktional Entrepreneur: Cristiano Vasconcelos of Quintal! 

Cristiano moved to California from Brazil in 2013, leaving behind a career in finance to pursue his passion for food. After a few years of restaurant experience, he found his way to Off the Grid, where he began to learn the ins and outs of food truck operations as a truck supervisor. In  2017, Cris was accepted into the Instrucktional program.

To learn more about Cristiano’s experience as an Instrucktional entrepreneur—and how he launched his mobile food business Quintal!—we asked him a few questions about the process:


What was the original inspiration behind your food truck concept?

My country—Brazil. I had already started doing some Brazilian food pop-ups, and I wanted to share some of our culture with the Bay Area. This was a perfect opportunity, and a brand new concept to add to Off the Grid’s existing fleet of food trucks.


How was the name for your concept created?

This part was hard! It took me 6 to 7 months of brainstorming (and lots of consulting with colleagues) before I landed on the name. Finally, I decided on Quintal, which means “backyard.” I wanted to provide my guests with delicious comfort food, a great experience and amazing hospitality, and backyard parties are always full of great food, atmosphere and energy. 


How did you create a unique look and feel for your brand?

Once we landed on a logo—drawing inspiration from the Brazilian flag—the design for the truck wrap came fairly easy. I worked with the program’s graphic designer to incorporate colors of the Brazilian flag, as well as some classic icons that represent Brazilian culture and food.

What did the menu design process look like?

My intention for Quintal was to provide my guests with an authentically Brazilian experience, through my food. I picked the most traditional Brazilian dishes for my R&D phase, then made adjustments based on testing and tasting, labor, and price.


If you can choose one… What’s your favorite dish you developed over the course of your time as an Instrucktional entrepreneur?

The Quintal! BBQ Plate: Grilled Picanha (traditional Brazilian cut of beef), Pork Sausage, Quintal! Rice, and Farofa (toasted panko bread “stuffing”) with a side of tomato vinaigrette. 

This was my top selling dish, and within the top 5 selling dishes for Off the Grid.


What was it like to launch your concept?

It was an unforgettable day. So much work went into making that launch day happen, and seeing people’s reactions to the concept and the food made me so happy. There were so many challenges leading up to launch, during the concept development, but learning how to scale production and how to prepare for a 500 – 1,000 person event was an invaluable learning experience.

Currently, Cristiano works with Off the Grid as an Assistant Operations Manager. In addition to his role with Off the Grid, he offers Quintal! catering on nights and weekends—birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, or any celebration. Looking forward, his primary goal is to open his own Brazilian restaurant.

Due to COVID-19, the Instrucktional program has been put on hold, and our team is taking some time to revamp the curriculum—ensuring the program’s relaunch is even more innovative and inspirational. Make sure you’re signed up for Off the Grid’s weekly newsletter to stay up-to-date on the relaunch, when Instrucktional will re-open the application process.