Foodie Friday: The Kimchi Taco Truck

Today’s Foodie Friday is the first No Joe Schmo snapshot, a new series that will briefly chronicle a cool or crazy job through one photograph (snapped by yours truly). The snapshot series — which will appear several times each month — are super-condensed versions of No Joe Schmo posts, just featuring the photo, one or two direct quotes describing the job, and a bit of logistical info. The series kicks off with a Foodie Friday featuring a New York City food truck!

“Kimchi, a part of Korean culture, isn’t too big in the United States. By mixing it with tacos, we’re bringing it to mainstream New York. I love introducing people to something they don’t know about.”

Who: Christian Manzo, 27
What: Part-time worker at the Kimchi Taco Truck, which serves up Korean barbecue-inspired tacos stuffed with marinated beef, braised pork, and chicken. The truck’s owners fused their Korean heritage with their Philadelphia roots, resulting in a Kim-Cheesesteak Sandwich. All kimchi is made in-house.
Kimchi is: Spicy, pickled cabbage “essential to every Korean meal.”
Where: Various destinations in Manhattan, NY, including Soho, Midtown, and Astor Place.
Favorite menu item: Pork tacos.
Originally hails from: San Francisco, where Korean culture and food trucks are “huge.”

Follow Kimchi Taco Truck on Twitter at @KimchiTruck and on Facebook, where the truck lists its lunch and dinner schedules.

Hungry for more? Click here for more Foodie Fridays on No Joe Schmo, like the co-founder of Crumbs Bake Shop and creative director at Dylan’s Candy Bar!

Foodie Friday: The Salad Dressing Entrepreneur

Ramona Waldecker of Central New York, with her line of homemade dressings and marinades.

Ramona Waldecker has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, but she’s never followed a recipe. Instead, she glances at the list of ingredients and doctors up the dish herself.

The same entrepreneurial spirit that Waldecker cultivated at age 9 — when she sold veggies from her backyard organic farm to neighbors in her wagon — can be found in her approach to business today. The former restaurateur started a line of salad dressings and marinades made from local products, which she collectively refers to as Ramona’s Kickin’ Chicken Sauces.

Waldecker sells about 6,000 bottles of her products each year in Central New York grocery stores like Wegmans and Price Chopper. Although she plans to move her business to grow in Tennessee, she’s counting her home base in New York for support.

Age: 50
Graduated from: Culinary Institute of America, Associate of Science degree
Based in: Syracuse, NY
Previous jobs: Restaurant owner; food broker [agent that negotiates sales for food producers and manufacturers]

How you got started: As a food broker, I thought bottling my own dressing would make great Christmas presents.

Moment you realized this could be a career: When I first introduced my dressings, a newspaper in my hometown of Baldswinville, N.Y., asked to interview me. From there, the phone started ringing off the hook – and one of those calls was to do a TV commercial. Through that commercial, I met buyers, which landed my products in the supermarket.

You already had a whole line of dressings? No, just one – my Sweet Country Italian dressing. That one will always be my baby.

Chicken riggies, a pasta dish native to New York State, typically includes chicken, rigatoni, and peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce. Photo:

And now? I have a whole line of Ramona’s Kickin’ Chicken products, which I started six years ago. That includes Sweet Country Italian dressing; Mildly Spicy Chipotle dressing; Cajun Black Bean dressing; Citrus Greek Feta dressing; and of course, Ramona’s Kickin’ Chicken Riggie Sauce.

What goes into your Kickin’ Chicken Riggie Sauce? Since I work in food services, I have access to restaurant-quality ingredients, like fresh cream and cheese from the farm. For the sauce, I use all locally-grown veggies, like cherry peppers, regular peppers onions, mushrooms, black olives, and fresh garlic.

Do you make it from scratch? I used to, which took two to three hours in the kitchen. I would taste-test each dressing about 50 times. Now, it’s made in bulk for me at a co-packer.

How did owning your family’s restaurant shape your career path? I started at The Good Times Restaurant at age 12, washing the dishes, which is when I first learned to be a workaholic. Now, with my own business, I still do everything any anything; there’s no being tired, no excuses. Plus, the house dressing I made at the restaurant turned into my Sweet Country Italian. It’s still served there, almost 40 years later.

Most important lesson learned: It takes a long time to get your brand out there. It doesn’t happen just because you have a great product; it can be the luck of the draw. But there’s also a snowball effect when good things start happening.

Best part of your job: Making people’s lives easier with my dressings and sauces – oftentimes, the lives of people who maybe couldn’t cook before.

Most frustrating part of your job: The slow pace. I’ll hear good responses from customers, but then they’ll forget to buy the dressing again the next month. It’s so hard to train people and change their buying habits.

"The only canned vegetable I use is cherry peppers," Waldecker says. "The rest are fresh off the farm." Photo:

How do you measure what tastes “good”? I’m very easily pleased when I go out to eat, but I’m very hard on myself. I can go to a restaurant, taste a meal, and come home and make it exactly – it just comes naturally to me. I’ve only goofed up one dinner in my life, and it was Chinese noodles.

Do you follow recipe books? No. I just look at the ingredients list, but never follow the steps. After I messed up those Chinese noodles, though, I went back to the steps to see what I did wrong.

If you could be a chef anywhere in the world, where would you work? Italy, even though I don’t know any Italian.

Your very first job: I had an organic garden at age 9. I’d load up my wagon with veggies from my garden and sell them around town in a 5-mile radius. Even at 9, I was an entrepreneur – I had business cards and everything.

You’ve always wanted to: Cook on a cruise ship. I love their decorations and presentations!

What are you working on right now? I’m moving to Tennessee, so I plan to grow my business there. But I’m counting on local customers in New York for support; my products will still be sold to supermarkets and smaller retailers in that area. I’m also writing a cookbook.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years? I’d love to go national. My inspiration is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

Must-have kitchen appliance: A chef’s knife and large cutting board are still my favorite tools in the kitchen.


Ramona Waldecker dishes about business ventures centered on food.

1. Take a course that will teach you about being an entrepreneur, such as The Women’s Symposium. It gives you an idea of what you’re getting yourself into; you don’t want to spend a ton of money and then not sell any products off the shelves.

2. Join your local Chamber of Commerce. I think smaller ones are better, because they’re less intimidating and allow you to network with other businesses in more intimate groups.

3. If you love to cook and share, there’s ample opportunity out there. Lots of people are fulfilling their dreams at this very moment.

Check out all of Ramona’s recipes using her dressings and sauces, like Citrus Greek Feta Chicken and Cajun Chili.

Hungry for more? Click here for more Foodie Fridays on No Joe Schmo, like an Oscar Mayer Hotdogger and head beer brewer!

Foodie Friday: The Oscar Mayer Hotdogger

Ketchup Kylie in front of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

Kylie Hodges graduated twice within one month. Once was from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where she turned her tassel and received a diploma; and once was from Oscar Mayer’s Hot Dog High, where she took an oath with a hot dog in hand.

Even though Ketchup Kylie – as she’s affectionately known by her fellow Oscar Mayer Hotdoggers – just graduated in May, she has pursued the position ever since auditioning to sing the Oscar Mayer jingle as a little girl. Growing up in Madison, Wisc., home of the hot dog headquarters, Kylie saw the Wienermobile maneuver around town on a regular basis.

After 14 days of Hot Dog High and 40 hours of Wienermobile driving training, she hit the road. For one full year, Kylie and one fellow Hotdogger traverse the northeastern part of the country, with Destiny’s Child music blaring from the van’s speakers.

Title: Oscar Mayer Hotdogger
Age: 21
Graduated from: University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, degree in radio/television/film
Previous jobs: Waiting tables in college

What the job entails: We’re brand ambassadors for Oscar Mayer and the Wienermobile, so we attend fairs, festivals, parades, and promotional events to talk with people and hand out coupons, stickers, and wiener whistles.

How you got the job: Oscar Mayer’s Hotdogger program recruits at a handful of different major universities across the United States, but I knew I wanted this job since I was a little kid. I applied online and found out I got the job before graduation; I graduated on May 15 and started on June 5.

Hot dog fate? Kylie, age 6, in front of the Wienermobile.

Coolest part of the job: Last week, for the 75th anniversary of the Wienermobile, I handed out wiener whistles on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange while Oscar Mayer’s vice president rang the opening bell.

Wow, the Mobile is 75 years old? Carl Mayer, the nephew of Oscar Mayer, designed it in 1936 as a way to sell hot dogs around Chicago. Over the years, it was revamped into a marketing tool. Now, it’s nostalgic to American culture.

So you don’t sell hot dogs from it anymore? No.

Something people would be surprised to learn about the job: People think we live in [the Wienermobile], but we stay at hotels every night.

That must get pricey. On top of our weekly salary, Oscar Mayer takes care of our accommodations and gives us a food allowance. But I still negotiate for my stays when I tell hotels I’m bringing the Wienermobile, which teaches me about sales.

Favorite part of the job: The Wienermobile brings out the gracious part of people. It’s magical to kids. I also love traveling the country; it’s like my own little study abroad.

Most challenging part of the job: Sometimes, on my off days, I get homesick or don’t want to leave the hotel. But then I make myself go places, and I talk to the coolest people.

Like whom? One family we met at the Safeway National Barbecue Battle in Washington, D.C. were huge Wienermobile fans, so they invited us over for a true Maryland seafood dinner and showed us around Annapolis. That’s something you won’t experience at a regular job.

Ketchup Kylie and her co-Hotdogger, Dylan (aka Dyl-icious) in New York City.

What does the Wienermobile look like inside? It’s painted to look like a sunny blue sky with clouds. The roof – which we call a “bun roof” instead of sunroof – opens up, so we can sit on top during parades and wave. The floor has condiment-splattered carpeting, and the door opens up like the DeLorean in Back To The Future (see left). The six seats are ketchup- and mustard-colored.

You can’t possibly drive across the entire country all year. There are six Wienermobiles with two Hotdoggers per vehicle. We’re each assigned to a specific region of the country, and I do the northeast area, from Maine to Virginia and as far west as Indiana.

Do the other Hotdoggers have names like “Ketchup Kylie”? Yes! Some include Turkey Dog Tyler, Beefy Brian, Deli Fresh Danica, Bacon Lettuce and Taylor, and Dyl-icious. They’ll probably all be at my wedding.

Are you sick of hot dogs yet? No, since I usually eat at restaurants and hotels. Hot dogs were one of my favorite foods as a little kid – either with ketchup or some macaroni and cheese, if I’m feeling crazy.

Your driving mix: Beyonce and Destiny’s Child before an event to get pumped up. During events, we play CDs with 20 different versions of the Oscar Mayer jingle – from the Beach Boys version to the hip-hop version to the Spanish version.

What’s the prep process for becoming a Hotdogger? We attend Hot Dog High for two weeks, at the end of which we say an oath with a hot dog in hand. So I graduated twice in one month – once from college, and once from Hot Dog High. I’m not sure which I’m more proud of.

Where do you see yourself at the end of the one-year gig? I plan to apply for NBC’s Page Program. Hopefully, in five years, I’ll be living in Los Angeles and producing for a live television show.

WATCH: [via 5min]

Working as a Hotdogger is a great way to relish life, Kylie says.

1. To apply, submit your resume online or mail a hard copy to the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Department. I altered my resume to include things I wouldn’t normally include, like hosting a college radio show called “Mama Kylie’s Feel Good Elixir.” Many Hotdoggers include theater or music experience.

The close-knit group of Hotdoggers send each other letters and mix CDs in mail.

2. Oscar Mayer recruiters look for a four-year degree, but you don’t need a specific major. It’s all about personality and what you can bring to the table that makes you sparkle. You need to be fun, animated, and really flexible, since people will be talking to you all the time. (SEE: the perks of a side job outside your industry.)

3. This is a job about being goofy; you can embrace your strangeness and dance like a weirdo outside the Wienermobile. Pretty much any Hotdogger will tell you it was the best year of their life. You’ll forever be a changed person, in a better way.

Check out the Hotdoggers’ blog about their on-the-road experiences at and follow Oscar Mayer at @OscarMayer and @Wienermobile. All photos courtesy of Kylie Hodges; for additional pictures, check out the No Joe Schmo Facebook page.

PLUS: Click here for more Foodie Fridays, like the co-founder of Crumbs Bake Shop, a fortune cookie writer, and a flavor developer at Cold Stone Creamery!

Foodie Friday: The Cupcake Chef

Mia Bauer said that opening the bake shop with her husband was taking a leap of faith.

With a law degree and no professional training in baking, Mia Bauer and her husband, Jason, decided to start a small bakeshop in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It was love at first Vanilla Coconut cupcake.

Almost ten years later, Crumbs Bake Shop churns out 1 million cupcakes per month at 36 different locations across the country. (That’s almost 1,400 cupcakes per hour.) Below, Bauer talks about her favorite non-cupcake dessert, the importance of doing what makes you happy, and the new delicacy coming to the sweets franchise this fall.

Title: Co-founder, Crumbs Bake Shop
Age: 42, but I feel 16
Graduated from: Brandeis University, B.A. in political science; J.D. from New York Law School
Previous jobs: Lawyer for the New York City Council

Job description in two sentences: I manage the baking, the creative end of business, and the front-of-counter experience of Crumbs, which means the customer experience. I’m constantly developing new flavors and varieties, as well as working closely with our customer service team to ensure that we offer the same customer experience as when we first opened on the Upper West Side.

How did your background in law translate to the food industry? [My husband] Jason and I always said that we should open a diner, because he would love to be a short-order cook and I loved waitressing. We went all in and didn’t really look back.

The Best Seller Collection includes Red Velvet, Cookies and Cream, Devil's Food, Peanut Butter Cup, Squiggle, and Cookie Dough for $27.

Why cupcakes? When I started dating Jason, we decided to combine our skills and open our first neighborhood bakery on the Upper West Side. When we first opened our store, the cupcakes were vanilla, chocolate, lemon, or strawberry, maybe with sprinkles.

But you weren’t the only game in town. We were the first bakery to create cupcakes with unique fillings, frostings, and decorations that had never been done before. Vanilla Coconut was one of my first creations. It consisted of vanilla cake frosted with rich vanilla cream cheese frosting and topped with just the right amount of sweet shredded coconut.

So you didn’t just sell cupcakes? While we made a variety of baked goods, it was our cupcakes that sold out every day, so we decided to expand and continued to grow our cupcake selection. Our gourmet cupcakes have now become the industry standard.

Have you always had a sweet tooth? Yes! Although I haven’t had any professional training, baking has always been my passion. I was constantly baking growing up, and my parents were good sports because they always told me it was delicious.

How does Crumbs stand out from the conglomerate of cupcakeries? We’re always keeping our selection fresh by debuting a new Cupcake of the Week each Monday and a Cupcake of the Month. We just added a Tasty Treat of the Week to showcase some of our amazing non-cupcake desserts.

What is July’s Cupcake of the Month? S’mores. It’s chocolate cake filled with vanilla cream cheese frosting, topped with chocolate cream cheese frosting and covered with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and graham cracker pieces.

Crumbs has locations in California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Chicago, New Jersey, New York City, and Virginia.

Something people don’t know about your job: I miss being behind the counter at our original location on the Upper West Side.

Best part of your job: I don’t mind the constant taste-tests. But working with my husband and best friend on a day-to-day basis is one of the best parts.

Most challenging part of your job: Finding a balance.

What’s your secret to to decorating each cupcake? I’ve always believed you need to make it personal. When you are decorating a cupcake, it should make you happy, so make it look and taste however makes you feel good.

Cupcakes sold per month: About 1 million.

Best-selling cupcake: Red Velvet.

Favorite cooking show: Barefoot Contessa has always been my inspiration; her recipes are flawless and so delicious, and her relaxed presence and confidence in the kitchen feels like a soothing meditation. I’m also obsessed with Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives because the talent that exists in all corners of our country amazes me.

A single Milkshake Cupcake sells for $4.50.

Favorite cupcake: The Milkshake Cupcake, which is a marble cake filled with vanilla cream cheese frosting and mixed with chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs. Then it’s topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting and a chocolate cream cheese frosting swirl edge with chocolate crunchies.

Favorite non-cupcake dessert: Second to cupcakes, I’d have to say crumb cake, which we are about to offer in the fall.

Mia Bauer reveals her surefire recipe for sweet endings: Surround yourself with a fantastic team, and never stray from your original idea and beliefs. Be willing to work hard in the beginning and take a few risks.

Follow Crumbs on Twitter at @CRUMBSbakeshop and on its Facebook page. All photos courtesy of

PLUS: Check out more Foodie Fridays on No Joe Schmo!