My name is Jessie Aron, and I really want to cook for you. I am the owner of Carte Blanche, a food cart in Portland, Oregon. Last year, after a very successful first season, I closed the cart temporarily. I did this because the kitchen needs considerable repairs and winter was presenting many new physical and logistical challenges.
During this break from the cart, I started to miss it like crazy. I also had time to consider every aspect of the business and its potential. I refined a plan to re-emerge as a strong, weather-resistent, visionary, and exceptional food cart with a future in the Portland food scene.
I recently learned that our old location on SE 32nd and Hawthorne is available to us, and I am jumping at the chance to move back to that corner. With your help, I am ending our one year hiatus now. I am launching this campaign to rebuild and reopen before the summer.
I am not going to be able to say this as well as I'd like to, but the truth is, I am doing this because I miss the people who came to the cart. I miss meeting them, listening to them talk about food, and watching them react when they couldn't believe what they were tasting. I learned that simple exchanges can be remarkable and exhilarating. I crave those exchanges now. It is my goal to make a living cooking for these people and for anybody who notices and takes an interest in what we're doing.
This stage of the process is very money-centric (which is weird for me), but there's something else. I am asking for more than that. I am asking you to do this with me. Running a business is the kind of adventure that can get terrifying and lonely. But in gathering your support, I start to understand that I am not alone in this. You are my co-conspirators. You are showing me that Carte Blanche is valuable, and it will come back because it belongs with you, on your way home from work or before your next class or on Saturday with your dog. It deserves to be a place that people can go, if they're in the mood for a surprise.
For curious people who are new to us, Carte Blanche is a bit different, and the concept can take some getting-used-to. There is no theme to the food we make: we cook whatever we want, and we change the menu constantly. Sample menus:
"Carte Blanche" is a french term meaning the freedom to do whatever one likes. I chose this name because I dislike boring food situations and I love genius cooking experiments, secret ingredients, and mouth epiphanies.
I use our favorite seasonal ingredients and cultural influences to dream up sandwiches, bowls, salads, and snacks. I love grilled summer peaches with mascarpone cheese, balsamic caramelized onions, mangoes and spice rubs, kaffir lime leaves in coconut milk, crispy shallots, apricot bourbon bbq chicken, grilled corn with turmeric butter, eggplant and zucchini fries, charred scallion sour cream, candied bacon, rosemary beets, miso caramel, beer braised ribs, chocolate sauce, sticky rice, sherry buttered mushrooms, sweet soy glazed salmon, roasted squash, and fresh curry paste from scratch. And a million other things.
The atmosphere I try to create is whimsical and very comfortable. Like an eccentric auntie's breakfast nook or a tree house or a secret fort.
To get a better feel of what we're about, I encourage you to read a handful (any handful!) of our yelp reviews.
Where the Money is Going
The funds raised here on Kickstarter will go toward replacing our broken kitchen floor, professionally cleaning the oven, acquiring permits and licenses, insurance fees, purchasing lots of new kitchen equipment, new outdoor furniture for a comfortable seating area, heaters for winter, an outdoor storage shed, re-stocking the pantry, promoting our re-opening, and other surprise costs that will inevitably and peskily pop up.
If we are fortunate enough to exceed our goal, the additional money will help us look toward the future. I hope to create a luxurious, comfortable, covered and heated patio for guests in the winter and perhaps even acquire a beer and wine license.
Risks and challenges
Carte Blanche is no stranger to these.
One of our greatest challenges is storage space. The cart is small, and our demand is not, especially in good weather. To keep up with our volume, we need to creatively make more space. By purchasing an outdoor storage area, I can banish all non-essential, non-edible items from the cart and thus begin to tackle this problem.
Another challenge is cold weather. It is an enemy of food carts, and I have a plan to fight it. In addition to providing comfortable and warm seating, I will promote carry-out meals in the winter and provide a call-in service so that customers can order their food ahead and pick it up at their chosen time without having to wait. Also, we will switch to a winter schedule in which we open and close earlier.
Finally, I want to mention balancing overhead costs with incoming revenue. This challenge is obvious for any business, and completely relevant to mine. Part of my new business plan involves a much more comprehensive budget, based on our sales history. I am extremely confident that we can overcome and manage our costs effectively. I am excited about the structural improvements (which I have had considerable help developing!) because they will allow us to reach more people without ever compromising the quality of our dishes.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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