20Q: Catching up with South Padre Streetfood's Chad Measner
Editor's Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area's arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person's artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
Chad Measner grew up in Wisconsin—the land of the Friday night fish fry—thinking he hated seafood.
When a friend invited the 1985 graduate of Janesville Craig High School to move to Texas and work on a fishing boat, Measner's outlook changed dramatically.
Starting out as a deck hand, he worked toward his captain's license in Houston—after which he learned to love seafood by preparing it at both bars and restaurants.
In 1997, Measner also earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas-Brownsville.
Measner can be found most days of the week in his mobile restaurant—the South Padre Streetfood truck. For more information, including location schedules and menus, visit SouthPadreStreetfood.com, search for South Padre Sea Food on Facebook or call 608-359-5907 or 608-359-4778.
1. What is the biggest challenge in operating a mobile restaurant? Maintaining a high level of quality on a daily basis. It involves completely setting up and breaking down a full restaurant from our commercial facility, which is also a fully licensed restaurant.
2. Share something people would be surprised to find out about you. My dream is to get to a position where money is not a factor, and I can feed all people who are hungry.
3. How did you get started in the food service business? I have always been involved in the food business. I think it started as a child at my grandmother's house where everyone congregated, and she always had food.
4. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was 10, I wrote a short essay saying I wanted to be a bartender and a missionary. I think I have done both well.
5. What fruit or vegetable do you absolutely hate? I hate beets. I remember being forced to eat them and slamming milk with every bite.
6. Is it hard to find places that will let you set up shop? People are very receptive to me setting up shop at their restaurants. I currently have more opportunities than I can fulfill.
7. Are there ever days when you really regret doing this? I think, in any business, you have those days. For a mobile food business, your kitchen relies on your vehicle running properly. There have been days where neither are functioning, and it is definitely a “what was I thinking” moment.
8. On Yelp, you have 20 reviews. Aside from two, the rest are 5 stars. How important are online reviews to the success of your business? Social media is HUGE. Yelp and Facebook are really great platforms for me.
9. How do you come up with your original dishes? Share one that didn't turn out nearly as well as you'd hoped it would. I browse a lot at other menus and dishes and put my take on them. I continue to try different sushi concepts, but I just do not have the rolling skills those guys have.
10. Name a dish served at another restaurant that you wish you'd have come up with. Pappadeaux, which is shrimp, oysters, crawfish, mussels and veggies in an awesome Monterey Jack cheese fondue that you eat with French bread. I will soon have it on the menu with my take on it.
11. Are you more of a city person or a country person? I love to visit big cities, their cultures and all they have to offer, but I am all about the country. I love wide-open spaces; living off the land with no rules, free and easy.
12. I'm partial to the lobster mac & cheese, but what would you say is consistently the most popular item on your menu? The lobster mac & cheese is a big favorite. It is made the right way—utilizing whole Maine lobsters and their tomalley (the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters) in the sauce. The two items that I would say are better and more definitive of my menu are the tacos Zihuatenejo-style with mahi mahi and the Slap Yo Mama gumbo.
13. Doesn't it get hot in that truck during the summer months? How do you keep cool? It gets crazy hot in the summer. You just embrace it and remind yourself it is “money time.” All kitchens anywhere get super hot in the summer. It's just part of the business.
14. You travel around a lot for work. How old is your truck and how many miles do you have on it? Bessy is old; built in 1986. It definitely presents challenges, but we gutted it when I bought it. And the food quality is better than any brand-new kitchen I have eaten at.
15. Why seafood? I grew up in Wisconsin thinking I hated seafood. Beer-battered pollock on a Friday was not my thing. My buddy Todd Dickman Lohry moved to South Padre Island in Texas and continued to call and tell me to move there and work on a fishing boat with him. I finally took him up on his offer and started deck-handing. I then got my captain's license. I lived there 20 years and always butchered and cooked seafood in a fishing capacity as well as a restaurant and bar capacity. When I decided to move back, I brought 2,000 pounds of gulf shrimp with me. I bought a house and a lot in Janesville, and South Padre Seafood was born.
16. Do you work alone, or do you have other people involved? What do you do when you're feeling under the weather? I do have employees, but it is tough. In the restaurant business, there is no “under the weather.” You go to work—period. I have gone through some very rough employees, but I am currently blessed to have the best staff ever for both the food truck and farmers markets.
17. My wife is allergic to shellfish. Do you have any food allergies? If so, what are they? I have no allergies, but we can accommodate all allergies unless—obviously—an ingredient is cooked into the item ordered. Making everything from scratch, I am always able to answer allergy questions accurately.
18. What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you while you've been out in the truck? I was driving home on Highway 51 from the Beloit Farmers Market when a tornado hit Janesville. I could not see a thing, and I am pretty sure the truck was on two wheels as I rounded the airport turn.
19. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? A great customer and friend told me not to get too down on the lows or too high on the highs. I remember that always.
20. What did you have for dinner last night? Spaghetti bake with salad and garlic bread, courtesy of my sister, Angie Clapper.