By: Ryan Sarmiento
What makes Hap’s business model for his food truck so unique (besides his own delicious culinary touches) is that a portion of all his profits will go into a scholarship fund that he has set up to assist young people who struggle with addiction to attend four year universities. Hap believes that many people who suffer from addiction “are good people who may have done bad things in the past and are looking for a second chance to better their lives and become productive and valuable members of society.”
Hap has seized an opportunity to purchase his own food truck, however is now turning to social media to help purchase the necessary commercial grade equipment. Hap has set up a crowd funding campaign on GoFundMe.com to raise a goal of $10,000 to get his business and charity venture up and running. To date (7/13/16) the campaign has raised $1,090 in five days. Visit the campaign page or donate to this great cause!
In our interview with the recently engaged 23 year old, Hap opens up about his passion for cooking, his potential menu, the significance the city of Malibu has had on his life, and his own history with addiction that inspired the charitable aspect of his business model.
A: I was born and raised in Malibu in the Point Dume Club, where my mom still lives to this day. She has lived in Point Dume for over forty years, and has no plans to leave any time soon. Like many other kids who grew up in the Point Dume area, I went from Miss Kimmy's Wonder Years Day Care to Children's Creative Workshop Preschool to Juan Cabrillo Elementary School to Malibu Middle and High School.
Anybody familiar with Malibu knows that it's a special place to be, whether you grew up there, raised a family there, or moved there later in life. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend my formative years in a small, tight-knit community where I was able to form many lasting relationships with friends. Malibu is a relatively young city and is constantly evolving, for better or for worse depending on your stance on development, but I have always seen it as a place with a healthy balance of natural beauty and family.
Q: Are you still currently living in Malibu?
A: After I graduated from MHS in 2010, I moved to La Jolla to attend UCSD, and graduated from there in 2014. I remained in the San Diego area through the middle of 2015, and after finishing college I helped start a program called San Diego Student Recovery that provides off-campus housing and mental health treatment services to college students who are suffering from alcohol and drug addiction or other mental health issues that are affecting their ability to reach their full educational, professional, and personal potential. I relocated to Orange County in 2015 to pursue a Juris Doctor degree at the Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law.
Although I no longer live in Malibu full-time, I have always come back to visit and spend time there over the last six years. There have been times where I drive up every week, and times where I drive up every month, but I always enjoy spending time there. So far this summer, my fiancé and I have been bringing our puppy up to the beach every week or two. I still have many friends in Malibu, and I still feel at home there. My Malibu address is still on my Driver's License, I am still registered to vote in Malibu, and I keep up with the local news on a daily basis. I wouldn't want to call any other place my home.
Q: You have a GoFundMe campaign set up to raise money for to open your own food truck. What inspired you to pursue this project?
A: To be frank, I was inspired to start my own business venture because I was struggling to find employment in the Orange County area. I applied to several hundred jobs over the course of about six months, and after enough rejection letters I took that as a sign that I should pursue this project that I have been thinking about for quite some time.
Anybody can start a business if they have the time and motivation, but not just anyone can start a business that will make a real difference in the world. I have always thought of ways to give back to my community and to the world in general, and I wanted to pursue something that would do more than just provide a living for myself and my family. I started this venture because I love to cook and feed people, I am able to produce quality products, there is always an opening in the market for quality products at affordable prices, and there are always people in need who can benefit from the charitable aspects of a business.
You can contribute to help fund the purchase of the necessary equipment to get this project off the ground here: https://www.gofundme.com/2dcnj3w
No donation is too big or too small. Even if you give the $5 that you normally spend on your morning latte, that will go a long way towards making this idea a reality.
A: I have gone through different phases in my life where I will be obsessed with certain types of cooking and food preparation. When I was a young kid, maybe around five years old, I became very interested in gardening to grow my own produce and learning about herbal remedies. I got a copy of Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, and if I studied in school as much as I studied that book then I probably would have a law degree already.
My passion for cooking was reignited while I was in college at UCSD. Over the summer after my junior year of college, I was back at home in Malibu working a graveyard shift from 9:00pm until 7:00am, and when I finished my shift I would go straight to the market to buy ingredients for whatever meal I had planned. When I got home, I would start prepping for the meal, sleep for a few hours, and then start cooking. I get a thrill out of forming recipes and turning my ideas into meals. My parents were both talented painters, and you could say that cooking is my personal medium of artistic expression.
Q: Where did this passion come from? Anyone in particular who is a cooking inspiration to you?
A: I became passionate about growing my own produce at a young age because my dad enjoyed gardening in his free time, and I had fun helping him out. Eventually, I had my own little garden, and I started making salads with the produce. My first "customers" were my parents and their friends, and eventually I started bringing my salads to elementary school to give to the Principal, Ms. Cairns, and my kindergarten and first grade teacher, Ms. Morgan. Some teacher's pets like to bring an apple for the teacher, but I had to go all out with the homegrown salads.
I have had a few different culinary inspirations over the years. As I mentioned, my dad inspired me at the very beginning. After that, I got a lot of inspirations from watching food shows on TV networks like the Food Network and Travel Channel. I never had any formal culinary education, so I learned a lot about ingredient pairings and preparation and cooking techniques from watching TV. My good friend Rodrigo, who has worked as a chef throughout North America, South America, and Europe for many years, has also been very supportive of my cooking over the past few years, and I have learned a lot from him. I am constantly trying to learn new things and to improve on the skills that I have already gained.
Q: What are some of your favorite dishes to make?
A: Lately, my favorite dishes to make have been slow-cooked meats such as BBQ pulled pork, pork carnitas, and braised beef short ribs. I typically spend two or three days marinating one single piece of meat, and then cook it low and slow for eight to twelve hours. It's a long process, but well worth the wait.
I really enjoy making casual comfort food dishes with a gourmet twist. I also enjoy making healthy dishes, because there have been times in my life where I am very conscious about what I'm putting into my body. There's no reason why healthy food can't also be tasty.
Q: What kind of cuisine is expected to be served on your food truck?
A: I am still making some slight changes here and there, but the preliminary menu that I am planning is as follows:
- Bacon, egg, Brie cheese, maple butter, heirloom tomato, and arugula on croissant or Brioche bun
- Smoked salmon, tomato, onion, capers, and balsamic reduction on bagel
- Pulled pork, mango & citrus BBQ sauce, pickles on Brioche bun
- Braised short ribs, fig & shallot balsamic reduction, fried leeks on French baguette
- Roasted chicken breast, chimichurri aioli, Brie cheese, arugula, heirloom tomato panini on ciabatta bread
- Jerk-spiced shrimp with Parmesan cheese, sun dried tomato, and pork belly polenta
- Roasted spiced cauliflower tacos with homemade salsa, guacamole, queso fresco, and cilantro
- Zucchini noodles with pesto, Parmesan cheese, and pinenuts
- Kale salad with blueberry citrus vinaigrette
- Three flavors of homemade frozen yogurt
- Hot coffee/cold brew coffee
- Matcha green tea
- Fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices
- Bottled water and small-batch sodas
Q: Have you thought of any names yet for the truck?
A: The food trailer will be called Chop Block Cooking & Catering. I'm a big football fan and played football at MHS, so I like the double entendre of "Chop Block" referring to a football blocking technique in addition to being a piece of food preparation equipment.
Q: Where will the truck be operating mostly?
A: The food trailer that I will be purchasing has previously been licensed to operate in Los Angeles County and Orange County, and I plan on splitting my time between Orange County and the Westside Los Angeles County areas, including in Malibu of course.
Q: The really interesting aspect of your business model is that there is a non-profit donation aspect to it. Can you explain what you plan to do?
A: I touched on it briefly above, but I didn't want to dedicate the time, energy, and money to start a business unless I knew that it could go beyond just providing a quality service and quality products and allowing me to make a living for myself and my family. I really want to make a true difference in the lives of others, and I want to create something that will allow me to generate revenue to put towards a good cause.
In addition to operating Chop Block Cooking & Catering, I will also be launching a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, non-profit organization. The purpose of this organization will be to establish a scholarship fund for students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction who are trying to earn a four-year college degree. Chop Block Cooking & Catering will donate a significant portion of all profits towards this scholarship fund, and there will be no administrative overhead or director salaries. One hundred percent of the donations to the scholarship fund will go towards putting students through college. We will also hold fundraisers and seek donations from outside individuals and organizations, and I hope that we will be able to make a difference in the lives of these students who need our help.
Although there has been an increase in available treatment for and education about the disease of addiction, there is still a stigma towards those who suffer from this disease. These are good people who may have done bad things in the past and are looking for a second chance to better their lives and become productive and valuable members of society. A college education is something that nobody can ever take away from you, but it can be very expensive to pursue, and I want to help support these individuals as much as I can while they work towards reaching this goal.
A: The disease of addiction and its effects upon society as a whole is a very personal issue for me. Before I started my college education at UCSD, I struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. I did a lot of damage to my own body, but I hurt the people around me even more. My friends and family constantly worried about my wellbeing. I was lost and hopeless about the possibility of ever finding a way out of the downward spiral.
I was very fortunate to have many generous people around Malibu and elsewhere donate their hard-earned money to help fund treatment for my alcohol and drug addiction. I entered UCSD as a freshman after graciously being given the opportunity of a second chance, and I set my mind on the goal of graduating from a four-year university. I graduated from UCSD a quarter early, immediately began working to help start the San Diego Student Recovery program, was accepted at every law school program that I applied to, and earned a full tuition scholarship to attend the Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law.
Those achievements were only possible because of the gifts that recovering from alcohol and drug addiction brought into my life, as well as the lives of millions of others across the world. I now have the opportunity to help others who have experienced similar adversity, and I want to take that opportunity and make the most of it.
Q: Is this something (scholarship fund) you plan to continue for a long time?
A: I definitely plan on doing all that I can to help individuals recovering from addiction pursue four-year college degrees for as long as possible. I am starting off with one food trailer, but if it is successful I plan on someday expanding to a brick and mortar restaurant, which could maybe even grow into multiple locations over time.
I hope to obtain donations towards the scholarship fund in addition to the money that Chop Block Cooking & Catering will contribute to this endeavor, and it is my goal to help as many students reach their goals as possible, but if I can make a difference in the life of at least one other person in need of a second chance then it will be well worth the time, energy, and money that I have dedicated towards this project.
All Things Malibu wishes Hap the best of luck in his business/charity venture and have no doubts that it will be a success.
If you missed it above, you can help Hap get his business off the ground with any size donation.