By Carolyn Diana
Food is more than just something tasty; it’s a lifestyle and a form of communication, according to Noel Corwin, 40, the owner of Gorilla Gourmet.
Corwin successfully started the food truck industry in Kalamazoo with his business “Gorilla Gourmet,” which participated in the city’s second semi-annual food truck rally in November. To Corwin, food is a way to share who he is. It isn’t just a job; it’s his life. Customers’ feedback isn’t just words; it’s fulfillment.
“You can always touch somebody as a cook without ever seeing them,” Corwin said.
Corwin will drive warmth through your bones with his seasonal dishes like hearty winter stew and soups, with ingredients from the local farmer’s market.
He learned his craft while travelling around Southeast Asia as a cook. The custom of street vendors and eating on the street inspired him to buy a food truck once he returned to the U.S.
Six years ago, he took a leap of faith and opened the first food truck in Kalamazoo.
“I was taking a chance to see if it was going to work, to see if it was going to get some traction in the neighborhood, if people would be stoked about it or whatever, and then it just became the gnarly grind,” Corwin said about his truck becoming popular in the area, despite being the first one.
Paving the way for the food truck industry in Kalamazoo didn’t come quickly. Corwin had credibility; he had more than 20 years of cooking experience. Then came two years of meetings with the mayor and community planning and development officials with the city. Finally, Corwin’s vision became a reality, and soon others caught on.
“I am the grandfather of the food truck ordinance here in town. I feel stoked that this business model has inspired other people to take a chance,” Corwin said.
Corwin mentors a senior at Mattawan High School, Carter Gentry, who is the future of Gorilla Gourmet. Gentry likes the fast-paced environment of the food truck industry, and loves to cook as well as eat a lot, which goes hand in hand, according to Corwin. The two worked in the truck on Saturdays at the farmer’s market in Kalamazoo.
“I’ve just kind of grown with him ever since,” Gentry said, “He’s had a real amount of experience so he has all these different ways to do everything…and he’s a good chef to work with.”