At a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, Ray Alfaro, who was working at the hospital and originally from Caloocan City, Philippines, had his eyes on Deb Fucile, a nurse from Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Not knowing how to make his first move, he bribed one of the workers with pansit (Filipino dish of Chinese noodles) to ask Deb to go out with him. Deb told the go-between, “We aren’t in high school anymore. He can come and ask me himself.” Ray asked himself and the rest is food-is-love history.
Quick cut to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ray eventually became an electrical engineer, and he continued his passion for cooking. In the Alfaro household, food is love has always been the ethos. Ray made sure the three children, Alexa, Matthew and Christian, were well fed. He would always cook for them, whether it was chocolate pancakes for breakfast or shrimp scampi whipped up at midnight after a run to the grocery store. Matthew sums it up, “If you weren’t fed, you were in deep in the dog house!”
Ray’s passion for cooking was infectious. “Dad trained me to be the prep cook,” Alexa remembers. “I spent a lot of time hanging out with him around the breakfast bar as he prepped. I would watch him do everything and anything--chop, dice, mix, blend! He taught me the key to chopping is a sharp knife and to use your knuckles as a guide, so you don’t chop off your fingers.”
On the other hand, Matthew learned to cook out of necessity. At a young age, he learned how to cook for himself. His siblings would always turn to him for food when their parents were not home. “My father taught me how to cook,” he recounts. “I would watch him, ask questions, try to do it myself, and then execute when he wasn’t around. He took over the kitchen, so cooking without him was the way I learned best.”
Alexa and Matthew naturally gravitated to the food industry. She was then an engineering student and decided that she would rather be in the food business after working at a restaurant as a server, hostess and bartender. Matthew has always loved to cook, and he could not think of any other field to be involved than in cooking. They both knew that it would be difficult to tell their parents, who are in the professions, about the idea of having a food business. Alexa knew the best plan of attack was with the family’s cheerleader, their mother, who just said, “That’s interesting.” Over the next few months, she worked up the courage to pitch the idea to their father, who always knows best. His response was the purchase of the truck.
Voila! That was how Meat on the Street came to be! It is the most recognizable food truck in the Milwaukee area because of its catchy name. A lot of times at the gas station, people would pose for photos in front of the logo on the door.
People flock to the Meat on the Street wherever it is parked because of the good food, and there are regulars that follow the truck around. It is primarily a mobile Filipino restaurant, where pansit, garlic rice and lumpia (egg roll), among others, are served.
All the food on the truck is precooked. This eliminates the risk of food being undercooked. Making preparations for an event can take a couple hours of work or 14-hour days, depending on the anticipated attendance. The truck is parked to make sales and exposure. Catering for events, like weddings and birthday parties, is the Meat on the Street’s main business. As such, parking all over the greater Milwaukee helps expand its following. Lunch is usually two hours, and it is followed by cleanup in the kitchen. Sometimes, there is a double, that is, a lunch and an evening shift for a special event, like concert, festival and block party.
Surprises make Meat on the Street more interesting. Alexa and Matthew once arrived an hour early to their lunch spot on Tuesdays. Then they realized that they forgot the garlic to make garlic rice, which was supposed to have been cooked on the day of the event. Alexa’s proposed solution was to take a taxi to the grocery store up the street. Matthew instead rented a public bike for $3 to ride up there and back. Twenty minutes later, sweaty and slightly out of breath, he was back with minced garlic. From then on, they always make a verbal and visual check of the garlic.
Food-is-love stories never end because they only have beginnings. For siblings Alexa and Matthew Alfaro, their Meat on the Street is only a beginning. Knowing their talents, perseverance and industriousness, they will make more beginnings to come!
Follow Meat on the Street on Facebook for its weekly locations!
Videography by Megan Moran
Photo and video editing by Ivan Kevin R. Castro
Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., writes from Chicagoland when he is not loving the arts and traveling. He is the author of the children’s book, Ballesteros on My Mind: My Hometown in the Philippines, which also has Ilocano, Spanish, and Tagalog versions.
More articles from Rey E. de la Cruz
by Alexa and Matthew of Meat on the Street
8 pounds cubed boneless, skinless pork butt
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 ounces garlic
1 tablespoon whole pepper
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white sugar
7 large bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
Mix all ingredients together and then add the pork. Let sit for an hour. After the one hour, bring to a boil then lower heat to a steady simmer until done. Approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Serves 15-20 people.