David Stenoien and Kavita Patel-Stenoien toyed with several business ideas before they launched one of the Mid-Columbia’s most unique food trucks this spring.
The West Richland husband and wife both worked at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — David as a molecular biologist and Kavita as a project manager with a master’s in business administration. David in particular was eager to re-tool his career after growing weary of chasing grants to fund research.
Passionate cooks and hobby-level winemakers, the couple considered establishing a winery or vineyard. David even became a certified viticulturist. They concluded the market was too saturated and the costs too high to make it feasible. They stuck to producing grapes and wine as a hobby rather than business.
Next, they considered a brick-and-mortar store and restaurant to sell foundational ingredients such as the curry sauces and dishes they’ve prepared for their family and friends for more than two decades.
In the end, the lines that form outside various food trucks that gather daily at PNNL inspired the couple’s entrepreneurial move. In the trucks they spied an opportunity to extend healthy, flavorful Indian cuisine to a regional audience.
Fast & Curryous, selling curries and kebabs, hit the road on May 12 in a truck the couple had custom built by Quality Trailers, a Portland company that specializes in mobile food vehicles. David left the lab in March while Kavita continues to work there to retain their health insurance.
The truck represents about $45,000 of the $75,000 the couple invested to launch Fast & Curryous. Personal savings funded the start-up.
In just over a month in business, Fast & Curryous is already regular fixture in all three cities.
It is at PNNL on Thursdays, at Pasco’s Food Truck Friday at midday and at Kennewick’s Sunset at Southridge on Friday nights.
This week, it added a stop at the Kennewick offices of frozen food giant Lamb Weston. In July will begin visiting the Amazon offices in Kennewick.
In between, it is on hand for special events, though the couple have had to turn down some invitations because of time conflicts.
For the couple, being mobile means learning the preferences of different audiences. At PNNL, its mostly vegetarian and vegan offerings are a huge hit. Business was slower at Pasco, so they created a Tikka Taco built around marinated chicken. It’s a menu staple now.
They’re still mastering quantities, as well. Their first day at PNNL, they sold out before the lunch hour started. But having too much food is a problem too.
“The dogs get sick of Indian food,” David joked about their pets.
Fast & Curryous is a recent graduate of Mobile Vendor University, a training program at the nonprofit Pasco Specialty Kitchen, that helps mobile food vendors launch and grow businesses.
Marilou Shea, the kitchen’s director, called Fast & Curryous a perfect example of the mission to encourage sustainable businesses and to expand the types of cuisines available in the area. From Russian to Somali, the kitchen is open to all would-be entrepreneurs, she said.
The business is young, but the owners hope it will form the foundation for a larger enterprise. They kept the name, Fast & Curryous, simple in order to extend the concept beyond Indian curries to Asian and other varieties.
David would love to add additional trucks and a private kitchen to prepare sauces. Kavita isn’t ruling out a physical restaurant in the future.
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