Ian Pierce of 128 Cafe: Chef Chat, Part 2

Driver, chef, artist Ian Pierce of 128 Cafe

Driver, chef, artist Ian Pierce of 128 Cafe

Today we bring you part 2 of our conversation with chef Ian Pierce of 128 Cafe in St. Paul.  (Here is Part 1 if you missed it.) 

128 Cafe was one of the first brick-and-mortar restaurants in the Cities to load up a truck and hit the streets. The remodeled white truck haunts the streets of St. Paul in the warmer months delivering those devilish ribs to the masses. 

Today we talk to Pierce about art, questionable driving skills, and the most important people in the business.

What did you think when the idea of the food truck came along?
I was all about it. I love this restaurant. I thought, man, that would be fun. I was excited from the start... then we got our asses kicked! (laughs) I love a challenge, and I really like the idea of building something.

Who drives the truck?
I do.

How are your truck-driving skills?
I'm an excellent driver! Sometimes I let Jake, my friend who sometimes works with me drive. One time we're going down Cleveland and there's this metal grate that hangs off the side, like a step. He's just getting a little close to the grass.  I'm like, "Buddy, you're going to be clipping grass in a second here. Move over a little bit."  I'm a great driver.

What were the challenges you faced with the truck?

[jump] First we have to prep, load up the truck, drive around, and try and find a spot. Then set up, cook, and sell. We break down everything, get it all tied down--shit can't be flying around back there--come back to the restaurant, unload, clean up, do the dishes. It's a ton of work.

Did you have a lot of experience eating at food trucks before you got involved with one?
Not a lot, no.  There's the Border taco truck. Do you know them?

Tasty tamales, sometimes parked on University, right?
Yeah, she is so nice. They're great.

Are you working on any special truck-only foods?
Not yet. I've got some ideas, but nothing really yet. I'm still working on dinner tonight. I do love the challenge, though. I love the creativity of cooking. 

Back when I was in high school I was one of those kids that wasn't really popular, but I could hang with everyone. The only subject I really liked was art. Sculpture, painting, that was what made me happy. If I could, I'd still sculpt clay.

Do you still do sculpture?
No. But that's what appealed to me about cooking. It's the only art that touches all of the senses. It moves people in so many ways. And to be able to share that art by feeding your friends, family, anyone, it made it an easy choice. Then I lucked into my first job. 

If I could, I'd still sculpt, but it's all about balance. I've got my wife and two kids. I'm really happy, blessed, and in a great position.

How long have you worked here?
Eight years. It's my second home.

What's your favorite cooking implement?
Um, I guess my chef knife. You can do anything with a chef knife, even some piece-of-crap knife, get a sharp blade on it.

Who do you admire most in the food industry?
My staff. Hands down, my staff. I could say some big-name guy, but what does he care about me saying that? Nah, I couldn't do what I do without my staff. You're only as good as the help you have.

I was going to ask if you play music in the kitchen during service, but I can already hear it.
Oh, yes.

What kind of music do you like to listen to?
Shitty classic rock! My bread and butter I love it. Look at me!    Dio, Boston, Journey ...

Hall & Oates?
Yes! I fuckin' love Hall & Oates.

128 Cafe
128 Cleveland Ave, St. Paul
128 Cafe website