Ryan Carragher’s ragged 1973 Chevy Step-Van is not much to look at. Approaching it on the off season, one might even wonder if it still runs. The inside is a tight fit and only comfortable for one person, though two can fit. But what the Nosh Village food truck lacks in comfort and spinning rims it makes up for threefold in bold taste, unbound creativity and atypical charm.
Nosh Village is Ryan’s St. Joseph-based food truck, which combines the culinary avenues of ramen, sushi, American east coast seafood, Midwest comfort food and more. The intersection is a Ryan original, developed from his 16 years in food service and time in different parts of the country.
“I’m not traditional at all,” Ryan said. “I take interesting flavors and put them in a more approachable dish.”
With dishes like chicken finger sushi rolls and tater tot poutine made with reduced ramen stock, Wisconsin cheese curds, kimchi, spicy mayo and scallions, Nosh Village is a food truck that takes the opposite ends of the food spectrum and brings them to previously unthinkable concoctions. For Ryan, if an oddball combination will get a customer to try something new, he will make it.
“People love it. It’s a gateway roll,” Ryan laughed, describing his chicken finger eggroll.
The food truck turned into a two-tiered opportunity for Ryan. After more than a decade in food service working for other people, the food truck was his opportunity to be self-directed and to finally unveil the scope of his creative energies. Nosh Village began under the umbrella of Watermark Brewing Co. in Stevensville, but after the first year out Ryan bought the truck and began operating independently. Watermark remains a mainstay for Nosh Village where it will be parked Wednesday evenings during the warmer months.
Like many creative chefs, Ryan thought about the possibility of starting his own kitchen. He did not expect that a food truck would be the channel through which he developed his most authentic inventions, but he has not felt stymied by the work space. Working in the truck has refined him and focused his creativity while opening entirely new possibilities.
“Learning how to do as much as I do in a small space has caused me to figure out prioritizing,” Ryan said. “I can do anything I want within the realm of what’s salable, and it’s really fun. It’s almost like a game of Tetris.
“A truck is as much condensed learning as fine dining restaurant. You cope and figure out a way through it. The truck has made me a better cook, better at prioritizing and better at executing.”
To Ryan, the open possibilities of a food truck creates a shared tension and a desirable charm between an artisan truck chef and the customer. He wants to be original and whimsical, but food truck customers want satisfaction and ease of use. Ryan attempts to find the balance between the two.
“A food truck can be anything,” he said. “If it’s good it works, if it’s not it doesn’t. I can change my menu any day I want. I’m doing something right if people keep buying it.”
Ryan has not figured out the art of the food truck on his own. His wife, Tess, carries the administrative side of the truck, scheduling events and venues, coordinating media and marketing and, of course, acting occasionally as sous-chef.
The larger community of food trucks has also shaped Ryan significantly in his first couple of years. Not only does he enjoy the diversity and kinship between different truck owners, he appreciates the shared art and challenge of the community.
“People get passionate about it. That’s the exciting part,” he said. “I think everyone that has a truck sees the labor of love that it is in being super busy, hot as hell, cleaning up and getting everything taken care of.”
Nosh Village might be the unusual truck at a given event, but Ryan’s rolling array of Asian/Midwest fusion is another complementary piece of Michiana’s mobile food scene.