Chef Tai’s Mobile Bistro, the brainchild of Tai Lee ’02, is the first gourmet food truck in the Bryan-College Station area. Recently voted America’s Favorite Food Truck on the Food Network, Chef Tai’s Mobile Bistro has grown to be a local favorite. Despite having no previous food truck experience, Lee set an impressive precedent for any and all future food trucks in Bryan-College Station.
Lee graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in finance, and despite the differences between finance and the culinary field, Lee credits his success partially to his Mays Business School pedigree. “Before I could start my dream of owning a restaurant, I had to come up with a business plan to show my financier,” he explains. “Even working now, I can analyze our statements and finances a little better than if I was just a chef. Being a finance major definitely helps me analyze our numbers to see what we need to do to survive as a restaurant.”
In 2007, before becoming part owner of Chef Tai’s Mobile Bistro, Lee helped create Veritas Wine & Bistro in College Station. He is currently still the executive chef at Veritas in addition to his work at the food truck. Lee’s success with his food truck must have been no surprise to those who are familiar with his work at Veritas.
While Lee was honing his craft at Veritas, his parents became familiar with the food truck business that was blossoming in Southern California. In 2009, they suggested to Lee that he join in with his own food truck. At that point in his life, Lee felt like he didn’t have the time to do a food truck. “I told my parents, “I am doing high-end food. Why would I want to do low-end?'” Lee said. After visiting his parents and experiencing some food trucks that served gourmet food, though, Lee changed his mind. In 2010, Lee opened Chef Tai’s Mobile Bistro to serve both some renditions of favorites from the Veritas menu and some dishes created specifically for the food truck.
“I saw it as a business opportunity: since we are serving the top 10 percent of Bryan-College Station [at Veritas], we wanted to hit the other 90 percent. So the food truck became a great vehicle for us to have lower-priced items to hit a greater variety of people. It made our food more accessible for more people,” Lee said.
Taste and price have helped the mobile bistro win not only in the national arena, but also to remain a local favorite. Lee has managed to survive and flourish when other restaurants that have tried gourmet food trucks have failed.
Categories: Former Students