By Seth Daniel
One of the most popular lunch brands in the Boston food truck scene now has its headquarters and operations based right on Ferry Street in Everett.
The Chicken & Rice Guys company – one of the most popular and prolific food truck/restaurant companies in the Boston area – has located its first central kitchen and truck-storage facility on Ferry Street in the old Sarnie Cleaners building.
Beginning work on half of the old dry cleaning building in late 2016, the company worked all year to remodel and get the facility prepared to handle food service operations. On Oct. 1, they kicked off operations and now are running full capacity out of the building – with a menu that includes more than a dozen employees, a full commercial kitchen and three operating food trucks.
“This is a very big step forward for us to be in our own kitchen facility because it allows us to be able to expand our food truck fleet,” said Steven Collicelli, the company business manager. “It’s been great to be in Everett.”
The Chicken & Rice Guys serve Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food on their three food trucks and in three brick-and-mortar restaurants (two of them in Boston and one in Medford). They offer uniquely spiced chicken and rice dishes, but the key to their food is the sauces that patrons can apply to those dishes – including the popular creamy garlic sauce.
Five years ago, owners Ian So, Jenny Giang and Kevin Lau were inspired by Middle Eastern street food in New York City and Philadelphia. Realizing Boston had nothing like it, they quickly got into the growing food truck scene and now operate their three trucks in Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, Waltham, Lexington and Watertown year-round.
As of now, all of their foods are prepared in Everett at the Central Kitchen and loaded on the food trucks around 9 a.m. From there, the trucks fan out all over Greater Boston to hit their lunch spots for the day. Collicelli said on a busy day in the summer, one truck can put out 500 plates of food on a lunch shift.
That means that around 6 a.m. every weekday on Ferry Street, lots and lots of rice is being cooked.
“The first thing we do is start cooking the rice when we get here early in the morning,” said Collicelli. “We cook a lot of rice.”
Being able to cook at their own pace and in their own place in Everett is the key to now being able to expand their business, Collicelli said. Most food trucks have to use a commercial kitchen that is rented in blocks for a period of time. All of the materials have to be brought in and food deliveries have to arrive at the specified two-hour block that cooking is happening.
Previously, the company operated out of commercial kitchens, most recently in Malden. Having their own space unlocks all kinds of opportunities.
“It can be very hard trying to operate a business our size out of a commercial kitchen,” he said. “We had three trucks when we moved into our last commissary. All the other food trucks and customers had one truck with four or five people. We would come in with 25 or 30 people. It was like a hurricane coming in. We would have from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to get it all done. It was very stressful and if our food delivery was late, it was a particular headache.”
Gone are those kinds of headaches, and the company with all of its unique employees and quirky truck staff are clicking along in Everett – ready to become more and more a part of the community when they aren’t serving up chicken and rice.
“We were looking in places like Dorchester and south of the city,” said Collicelli. “We were based out of Medford and Somerville before and we are a north of the city company, so Everett made a lot of sense.
“I think we are in the middle of a 50-year shift away from the suburbs and into urban areas,” he continued. “For a long time, urban areas and urban industrial areas like Everett were neglected. Now people are discovering them, saying that they are very close to the city, and that their industrial areas – when cleaned up a little – are beautiful in their own way. Chicken & Rice Guys, I hope, are part of this revitalization in Everett…We took an old dry cleaning warehouse and made it into a kitchen. That’s pretty cool.”
The Chicken & Rice Guys plan to have a grand opening at the Ferry Street headquarters in the spring once the weather breaks. They said they hope to get much more involved in the community and the schools in Everett in the new year. They provide about 70 year-round jobs and 110 jobs at their seasonal high. However, they are expanding and are hiring right now.