One Friday evening, Joel Bein, with a boyish grin that deserves to be trademarked, accepted the applause of a well-heeled audience at a charity benefit cooking contest. He had just won the top award over chefs from some of Tulsa’s finest restaurants and country clubs.
His winning dish was an intricate, artistically plated concoction of smoked and braised wagyu beef, cheese, pickled radish and carrots, herb-inflected yogurt and microbeets.
A few hours later, Bein arose at 4 a.m. and drove east toward the city line to a kitchen he shares with veteran caterer Josh Vit. There, he pulled 400 pounds of brisket off the smoker – it had been fired all night with apple and pecan wood – and loaded it onto a long, homely, hard-working rig that looks like something Mad Max might patch together for a run through enemy territory. That’s Rub, his food truck.
Bein sent it off with two employees to feed a crowd of 225 hungry runners while he stayed to prep food and make salads for an elegant wedding he was catering that evening at the Tulsa Botanic Garden. He hoisted that food aboard another love of his life (the others being his family and Rub), a gleaming silver 1975 Airstream Land Yacht named Landmark. Arriving at the garden by 2 p.m., he cooked, served and (back at the kitchen) cleaned nonstop for the next 10 hours until midnight. He then snatched a few hours’ sleep and returned to work at 4 a.m. to prepare Sunday brunch.
Bein started his food-truck business almost on a whim when he saw a trailer for sale online.
“I had no idea how much time it would take,” he says. “When I did, I quit my day job.”
It was an easy choice. His earliest memories are of himself as a toddler, standing on a chair to watch his mother and grandfather cook.
“My mom made mealtimes really interesting,” says Bein. “She’d cook ratatouille and tell us its history while dicing the vegetables.”
One day he bought a smoker and taught himself how to use it. It was addictive. He found himself cooking for 500 people at PTA events and loving it. Smoking became his forte, and the idea of selling his “smoke fusion cuisine” from a food truck had appeal.
In the summer, the heat inside the food truck can approach 140 degrees.
“You get used to it,” he says of the a 6-by-10-foot space where three workers convene. “We drink a lot of water and we sweat the whole time. You’re all over each other in there. At any time, you’re a server, a chef, a line cook, a dishwasher and a cashier.”
But now, a line has formed and Sunday brunch begins. The guy at the front orders eggs Benedict with wagyu steak. Without pausing to think, Bein throws the steak on the grill, drops the eggs into poaching water, toasts the bread and adds the hollandaise, which he makes fresh every half hour. Three minutes later, it’s done… and so are two Cuban sandwiches, made with pulled pork and brisket along with Swiss and pickles. And then he goes on to the next batch of orders.
Most chefs with Bein’s success and drive, by now, would beg to work in a traditional kitchen.
“I can never rule anything out,” he says of that possibility, “but I love the truck life. I love Rub, I love my new Landmark truck, and I have a couple of killer concepts for a third truck that you might see sometime down the line.”
- 4 corn tortillas
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 cup Prairie Creek Farms Chorizo, cooked
- 1 cup black beans, warmed
- 8 oz. grilled prime flatiron steak, sliced
- 1 cup salsa ranchera
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup queso fresco, crumbled
- 2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
- Pinch Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
- Several Lime wedges, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Brush both sides of each tortilla with oil and grill on each side until crisp.
Heat the salsa ranchera over high heat, and keep hot until time to serve.
Poach the eggs and keep warm.
Place 2 fried tortillas on each plate, topping each with chorizo, black beans and grilled flatiron steak.
Top each with a poached egg, ¼ cup salsa ranchera, queso fresco and cilantro.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a wedge of lime if desired.
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
- 3 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. ground ancho chile powder
- Pinch salt, to taste
Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the onions, garlic, and jalapeno; then sauté for 2 or 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become soft.
Add the oregano and ancho chile, then simmer for about 5 more minutes.
Season to taste.