Carter has consistently had a creative side as he grew up, whether sketching, painting or writing short stories. Four years into his time at Appalachian State University and three changes in academic major, the only consistent thing was his time working in Boone area restaurants after classes and on weekends. This is where he felt he could tap into his creativity and imagine, design, build new flavor combinations and dishes. And he found he’d rather spend his time learning about food and cooking. “Interestingly, I found my true passion at App State – as my parents always encouraged me to do when I left for college – but App didn’t offer a culinary degree,” Carter said. So, similar to Shorty’s journey, Carter left school to devote his energy to cooking full time in kitchens at the Green Park Inn and Storie Street Grille in Blowing Rock, as well as the popular restaurant Proper in Boone. Working his way up from prep and grill, to ordering and working with local farmers on selecting produce and proteins, Carter quickly moved up in responsibility but his passion has always been in creating. “I love the process of creating a meal or special from scratch, from starting with seasonally available ingredients and thinking through the whole prep process and then plating everything in a beautiful way really gets me going. Many people in the food industry despise this strenuous process but I saw a certain elegance to it that drew my attention. I was surrounded by people who saw food differently and appreciated the art of cooking and being able to create a simple art piece each day that you get to eat is pretty neat to me.”
"Many people in the food industry don't care for the strenuous process of cooking seasonally from scratch but I saw a certain elegance to it that drew my attention."
Erica “Shorty” Imhoff
So how does a chemical engineering student at LSU of Thai descent end up a partner & chef on a food truck? Sometimes a crisis creates new opportunity. Just five classes from earning her degree, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Shorty didn’t return to school. “Although I went to school for something completely different, I was still working in kitchens while in school. I found that I enjoy the people more in kitchens. Also, I just like the creativity, flavors, and processes of cooking. It's like chemistry, only tastes better.” From the age of 16, Shorty was cooking. First, it was out of necessity as both of her parents worked full time and then out of love, as her mother opened an Asian restaurant where Shorty began honing her skills and learning traditional Thai methods and recipes from her mother. After relocating to Western North Carolina, she worked at a variety of local restaurants (Bistro 1896, Ambrozia) and food trucks before the opportunity to collaborate and join forces with a few other local chefs to launch a food truck. “I worked with Carter and Matt in a variety of settings and they just had that perfect combination of a love of genuine food, talent in preparing creative dishes, and a desire to work hard to be successful. I knew I wanted to be in business with them, because we’re all on the same page food wise and frankly, we have a blast cooking together,” she said. And in terms of the type of food they wanted to serve, Thai was a natural. “We all love Thai food, and it’s part of my heritage,” Shorty explains. “I like how it is a delicate balance of texture, and taste; sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, sour. The processes of muddling herbs to release the oils and aromatic aspects always gives me goose bumps and makes my mouth water uncontrollably. The combinations of herbs and roots and spices are invigorating.”
“We all love Thai food, and it’s part of my heritage,” Shorty explains. “I like how it is a delicate balance of texture, and taste; sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, sour...The combinations of herbs and roots and spices are invigorating.”
Similarly to Shorty and Carter, Matt started down a certain academic path and made the pivot to cooking full time. He attended Appalachian State University in Boone, working toward a degree in international business but in his junior year he decided his true passion was cooking. He departed App State and began working at Storie Street Grill in Blowing Rock (where he first met Carter) as a sous chef. Matt is now finishing the entrepreneurship program at AB-Tech in Asheville. A common theme among the Bun Intended chef/partners is the creative nature of food and the pure rush of the food truck business. “I really thrive on the rush of working the line and having that creative freedom to make different food with all sorts of ingredients,” said Matt. “I like the quick pace and accuracy that working the line requires. I also like creating new dishes and flavor profiles that are different than what is seen by most chefs.”Another common theme is the emotional connection around preparing and serving great food for friends and families. “I feel like I’m always cooking, either on the food truck or personally for friends,” he said. “I find great comfort in feeding people and seeing their reaction. The feedback we’ve gotten from our Thai dishes we serve from our food truck is really energizing and validating.” Before partnering to start Bun Intended with Carter and Shorty, Matt was involved in large scale catering events at award-winning Ferrington Village in Pittsboro, a Sous Chef at Storie Street Grill in Blowing Rock and Ambroziain Asheville, as well as several years on local food trucks. “I love the collaborative nature of the Asheville food scene,” Matt said. “We’ve gotten such great support and advice from our fellow food truck operators here in town. There is a wonderful sense of cooperation and everyone really helps each other out. It’s very unique and counter to the type of competition you generally see in the business world. I really love that element about the vibe and energy here in Asheville. It’s a very special place, so I’m glad we can be part of it and make a positive contribution to the quality of life we enjoy here.”
“I love the collaborative nature of the Asheville food scene,” Matt said. “We’ve gotten such great support and advice from our fellow food truck operators here in town. There is a wonderful sense of cooperation and everyone really helps each other out."
Three partners with a ton of culinary experience and a passion for Thai food started the Bun Intended food truck with a simple goal: serve unique, delicious Thai-inspired street food on steamed buns and bao to friends, family and fans in Asheville and WNC, while making a positive impact on the community....