My jaw hit the pavement the first time I saw the truck. Outside Atlanta’s CNN Center was parked a FedEx-sized delivery automobile, painted with the colors of the Mexican flag and the portrait of an African-American man wearing a sombrero right smack in the middle. It bore a tagline, “The Blaxican Mexican Soul Food.”
I knew I had to find this Blaxican.
Before he was known as The Blaxican, William Turner was a Boston, Massachusetts-raised father of two who came to Atlanta in 1992 and today, like many Americans, found himself unemployed. Turner was laid off from his job as the marketing director for a non-profit religious organization a year ago.
So with that background, where did the food come in?
“My father, he was a cook on a submarine in World War II,” Turner told me. “It was one of those escapes in the home where when things were rough everybody started cooking something.”
After losing his job, Turner read an article that Atlanta had issued its first food truck permit. He confessed that he’d never heard of food trucks, but after some research he knew it was something he wanted to do as part of his life-long dream to start a restaurant.
Though he calls, “The Blaxican,” name a “God-given epiphany,” he first heard it over in L.A. while visiting a friend.
“He said, ‘Hey man you look like one of those Blaxicans,” Turner recalls. “I said, ‘What is a Blaxican?!’”
Turner learned “Blaxican” was term people on the West Coast used to describe the children born from having African-American and Mexican parents. Turner did his own hunting around town and noticed two things that inspired his concept; the South’s rich history of soul food and Mexican restaurants. Once Turner knew what he wanted to do, which was fuse soul food and Mexican cuisine, the name was an easy fit.
With a menu of about eight items (scaled down from 30), that include collard green quesadillas (Turner’s personal favorite), jalapeno macaroni and cheese and BBQ steak tacos, The Blaxican is quickly becoming a favorite of Atlanta’s burgeoning food truck scene.
But for Turner, it goes beyond that – starting with the initial skepticism some folks might have about the branding.
“As far as the image on the side, that’s my picture with a sombrero on it, so if anyone should feel like they’re being made fun of it’s me.” Turner told me before adding, “And I don’t!”
Turner has plans for a Mrs. Blaxican truck that will serve desserts and a Blaxican Junior, which will serve tapas. On top of the new business ventures, Turner uses the tip money collected by the truck to feed the homeless, something he says like his love of cooking, started in the home.
“My grandmother told me years ago when I was young that charity is the rent you owe God for your blessings. It’s not an option, it’s not a tagline, it’s not a mission statement, it is as much a part of my business as selling food is. The least I can do is pay my rent to God.”
And the means to that end taste pretty darned good.
By Gavin Godfrey