By Kayla Robins
Carson Young was not happy with his lunch options during his days working a 9-to-5 job in Atlanta. So when he went to Los Angeles with his mom and saw food trucks roaming the streets or parked to serve all types of food, his vision began to form.
“It just clicked,” said the 30-year-old Buckhead resident and native.
He drove his mom to three different trucks and told her he was going to bring one of his own to Atlanta.
Five years later, Yumbii, Atlanta’s pioneer food truck, can be seen at multiple locations a day, with lines that sometimes include more than 100 hungry customers.
Young, who has been deaf since birth, never received professional cooking or restaurant training. He simply had an idea and was determined to make it happen.
“When I went to California, I saw something I desperately wanted to bring to my city,” Young said.
Now food trucks are popular venues. Suburban cities such as Brookhaven and Dunwoody host weekly “food truck events” that draw hundreds, even thousands, of fans to public parks.
But when Young started Yumbii, metro Atlanta wasn’t set up to deal with food trucks like his. Although the trucks had taken to the streets in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Austin, there were no permits or heath codes allowing them in Atlanta. Young bought a truck in Los Angeles to make sure it was top quality, and brought it home.
“A lot of people thought, what is Carson doing transporting a huge truck across the country to a place where the market doesn’t even exist?” said Young’s mother, Rebecca, owner of Rebecca Boutique in Buckhead.
It took one year to earn the right to cook on and sell food from a truck, Young said. “When we called to get the first permits,” Young said, “the lady replied, ‘I can tell you right now I don’t like food trucks.’”
But Young’s insistence on high quality impressed the Fulton County Department of Health, the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta City Council, all of which helped develop safety and health standards for the industry that exists today, he said.
“They’re not trying to stop us. They’re trying to do things for the safety of the public,” Young said. “If something goes wrong, the public will turn on them. Their heads are on the block.”
Although the permitting issues are settled, Young still finds obstacles to overcome.
At first, it proved difficult to find locations for his truck, he said, because people didn’t know about the business he was offering.
“Anytime you’re the first, you feel it’s a little lonely in that tunnel,” Young said.
Young said if a building has a cafeteria, vending machines or even just one Coke machine, there may be a no-vending clause that prohibits his truck from parking outside. But now the movement is rooted, and businesses come to him. Yumbii, he said, is offered more business than it can accept.
Young said the best part of running a food truck is seeing his customers having a good time. Although he does not do the cooking himself, he tries to frequent both trucks.
He was the first deaf student to graduate from Woodward Academy and does not let the fact that he can’t hear get in the way of speaking with customers and occasionally even jumping in the truck to take orders. “I love to see people talking,” Young said.
Yumbii’s name and beginning mirror the social interaction Young relies upon and values so heavily. He is present on Twitter and Facebook, always asking what his “yumsters” want to see on the menu.
In the early stages, Young would drive the Yumbii truck around Atlanta, tweeting to ask where people wanted him to go and following the responses, like a personalized ice cream truck.
He partnered with Tomas Lee, the chef and owner of Hankook Taqueria, to develop a menu for his “far out food” truck.
Yumbii offers ribeye beef and spicy pork that marinates for eight hours, then roasts for 12 more, fish tacos and vegetarian and gluten-free options. Fries, the signature menu item, are deep fried then tossed in sesame oil and a secret blend of seasonings, and served with Yumbii’s original sriracha-cheese dip.
“The sesame fries are evil,” patron Jill Levenson of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta said with a grin. Levenson said she used to follow the truck to various locations before it began selling at the Woodruff Arts Center on Friday at lunch across the street from her office.
“I use it as an excuse to get out of the office,” Levenson said.