While many businesses that opened during the last year point to the pandemic as reason for their existence, The Food Truck in Siargao just happened to be a good idea made real: affordable gourmet fries with island-sourced ingredients served from a yellow truck with a happy, welcoming vibe.
The truck opened only last April and already it’s a hit. “Everyday people come to try something new from the menu,” says Saar Geva, CEO of the Happiness Group which runs The Food Truck among other Siargao ventures. “We appreciate the love and feedback we have been receiving so far. Our concept seems to be able to speak so many languages, from the food, the team, the music, the truck itself.”
The yellow truck doesn’t exactly move around the island. It’s located in front of Arka Hayahay Surf and Beach Resort along Tourism Road in General Luna. What people keep coming back to, primarily, are the fries which in The Food Truck’s case is not limited to just potatoes. It has squash fries, eggplant fries, cauliflower, zucchini, pineapple and broccoli fries. They are served in banana leaf cones to avoid single-use plastics.
Customers can freely combine their fries of choice with different sauces (Beetroot, Curry, Garlic Aioli, Tzatziki, Ketchup, Pickled Lemon, Olive Paste, and Green Onion) and toppings (Greek, Parmesan, Egyptian, Spicy Herbs, Pickled Onion, Pico de Gallo, and BBQ). With each visit, people can have a totally different fries combo which makes the Food Truck experience pretty creative and fun.
“Everyone we know loves fries and we thought that it doesn’t have to be seen as ‘unhealthy,’” adds Saar. “At the Truck, you also don’t have to commit to a full meal—you have something that is filling enough for a quick bite right after surfing, in between meals, or a pit stop on your way home.”
The guy behind the menu is Phillip Gal Tau who was born and raised in Israel and started cooking at the very early age of 12. “I needed to cook for my younger brothers while my parents were working,” he says. “After teaching basic stuff and trying it out for myself, I started loving [cooking]. I would read about recipes online and also cook for my friends who told me I can do more with it.”
Phillip first worked in a sushi restaurant in Israel before cooking in an Israeli-Arabic establishment and a seafood restaurant in the surf city called Eilat. “I juggled culinary school while cooking in two more fine dining restaurants when I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic and tech center.” His first restaurant in the Philippines is Wonderland in Siquijor, a vegan establishment near the beach. When he had to shut its doors temporarily, he moved to Siargao not exactly to open another food joint but for the surfing.
His friend Saar is also from Israel. “I wasn’t too open about moving here [in the Philippines] at first because I loved my life in Israel and have been running bars and hostels with friends in Tel Aviv,” Saar says. “When we experienced a terror attack in one of our bars there, it burst my bubble and I became more open to change.” Before Siargao, Saar was living in El Nido where he and his friends opened their fist hostel and first boutique hotel for the Happiness Group.
Opening a food truck has always been a dream for Saar since he was young, and he’s glad to have found Phillip whose ideas matched with his. “We had the same thoughts about keeping the Truck simple, that it doesn’t have to move around, and the menu can be taken to the next level,” says the CEO.
Having ran service establishments of their own in the past, the guys know food and location aren’t the only things that make The Food Truck what it is. “We combined Phillip’s uniquely curated menu with a super cool team of locals based in Siargao, funky music and art by our friends—including DJ Maxime Gutinbear from France and graphic designer Lu Barrón from Argentina—and overall good vibes brought in by the local community that come to the Truck everyday,” says Saar. “As with all things, it takes a village to bring an idea to life.”
[Visit @thefoodtruck.siargao on Instagram. The Food Truck is at Arka Hayahay Surf and Beach Resort along the Tourism Road in General Luna. Apart from the boutique hotel (and soon an 80-bed hostel in Siargao island), Happiness Group also runs three properties in El Nido, Palawan, including Blue Mango, Happiness Hostel and Happiness Boutique Villas.]