Buffalo.com

Soup sleuth, Part IV: Papaya - PHOTOS

Trend-setting Lockhouse Distillery to open Saturday - INTERVIEW


Grub + Pub

Righting wrongs in big black truck: Meet Willmott, Dimmer - INTERVIEW

blog by Nick Mendola  • 

Christian Willmott and Mike Dimmer of the Black Market Food Truck have been friends for a long time, since they arrived at Canisius High School from Lewiston and Depew, respectively. It’s surprising, however, that their love of food came well into their friendship.

In fact, growing up found the pals playing punk rock rather than plotting a palatable empire.

“Music was definitely influential and it was something we thought we wanted to do for a long time, but if you don’t have the passion you’re not going to get too far for it,” said Dimmer, who fronted the band The Airview for Willmott and others in the mid-2000s.

Food wasn’t on the radar. Willmott went to college for pre-law and Dimmer for architecture. The turning point for the duo was the need for college employment and a connection from Dimmer’s mom, an instructor whose student teacher was a server at the now-defunct Astoria restaurant on Elmwood Avenue.

Funny how things work out.

“Astoria changed my mind from ‘I wanna be an architect’ to ‘I want to own my own restaurant and be a chef’,” Dimmer (pictured left) said.

“It was my first legitimate experience with food and it was just to be a job to get through college. That was our first real experience with fine dining and a different kind of food. Our love really kind of grew from there for the food industry.”

Willmott and Dimmer wanted to stay in food once Astoria closed and worked at a number of places. Though they finished their undergrad work, the two moved onto culinary school in place of graduate school. It was off to the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.

Later, with Willmott working as a food sales rep and Dimmer working at now-closed Ulrich’s Tavern, they started a catering business to get their feet wet.

The initial reviews were good, but the duo needed to reach a larger audience. It was exhausting supplementing their career desires by working full-time jobs.

The food truck business was atop the minds of many foodies, and it seemed a good next step for the guys from the Nines Catering Company.

“We knew we could make an impact and express ourselves that way,” Willmott said, adding that although the truck environment is tough and limiting, it gave them “the freedom of working for yourself and to kind of create whatever you want, food-wise.”

Black Market Food Truck logo

“The truck sort of came from a need of running this catering company for three years and getting a really great response from the people that we catered for,” Dimmer said. “People were loving it and we were kind of looking at each other and saying we need to figure out a way to get this out to more people. We need people to see us on a regular basis.”

Why the name Black Market Food Truck?

“For one thing, it’s a big black truck and we were kind of playing off the whole deli aspect with the market,” Willmott explained.

“We wanted to provide things that you couldn’t really find anywhere else in Buffalo, especially not on a food truck, so that was kind of the angle with the black market being a little bit off the beaten path and there’s a certain edge to it, whether it’s the food or not, that’s really intriguing to people.”

The pair have gained notoriety quickly thanks to a variety of items like Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, Italian arancini (rice balls, pictured below) and a variety of homemade soups and salads.

Success for Willmott and Dimmer has come and their motivation was one of idealism. Working around and loving food had them frustrated, thinking they could do better.

“It was probably a negative reaction to a lot of the places we worked,” Willmott said.

“Kind of seeing how things could be done the wrong way reinforced that we needed to do it the right way. The places we worked they weren’t all bad, but there were a lot of practices in place that were cutting corners or not necessarily up to snuff. We didn’t want to do that. Anyone would be able to notice the difference between who is cutting corners and someone who is not.”

Corners are cut for a reason, though, and the Black Market boys have sacrificed certain profit for quality. After all, customers’ happiness should be a far bigger jump-off for money than skimping.

“It’s about the quality of the product we’re putting out,” Willmott said. “That’s what will keep people coming back. We have a genuine desire to keep people happy. One will follow the other, but you’ve gotta establish some standards.”

Dimmer admitted that they “didn’t know what they were getting into” right away and that adjusting to being the bosses was a challenge.

“There’s a problem every day,” Dimmer admitted. “We’ve worked in places where something went wrong and there was the boss to go to and say, ‘Hey this is broken.’ We’re the boss now. We have to pay for it and we have to figure out a way to fix it.”

So what’s the big picture look like for the Canisius High School grads?

“Not a food truck forever,” said Willmott, though he admits a second truck is an option and said they’ll be expanding in some way sooner rather than later.

“It’s a brick-and-mortar for sure. In terms of what concept, I don’t think we really know because it’s not really a tangible option right now. But we talk about it all the time. We have like 20 restaurant ideas.”

Willmott and Dimmer will be moving forward, hoping to foster an already-strong reputation in their home.

“We’ve gained a decent amount of recognition in the city and relatively quickly, which is what we wanted to do,” Dimmer said. “I’m really hoping that that continues.”

TAGGED: black market food truck, christian willmott, cue the resurgence, food trucks, interviews, michael dimmer, nick mendola, the nines catering company

Related Entries

Grub + Pub

Fueling the Black Market: New food truck seeks funding - VIDEO

Grub + Pub

Re-writing fast food: Meet the Black Market Food Truck

Grub + Pub

Black Market Food Truck to debut Friday - INTERVIEW

Grub + Pub

Black Market Deli to open inside Waiting Room - INTERVIEWS

Leave a Comment

Please enter the word you see in the image below:


Comments

  1. Laurence Derasmo November 21, 2013 @ 6:22pm

    Congrats boys, it is well deserved! I will always remember our serving days at Astoria! Best of luck! Lorenzo

    Laurence Derasmo's avatar