Sometimes things happen for a reason. So when Matthew Schelter lost his corporate job and took a severance, the reason must have been that he was destined to run a food truck using a longtime family recipe.
After marking one year in business, Schelter is amazed at the reception he's received in Buffalo – a city hungry for food trucks. In that time, he's also created a new name for himself and he explains what it's like to be the Cheesecake Guy NY.
Question: After one year running a food truck, what's your biggest surprise?
Answer: I didn't expect to be received into the community as well as we did. I expected more of a tortoise approach, but the community, the people of Buffalo, are overwhelming. It makes you feel good.
Emails and phone calls blow up – people want you to be here and there. People like what we do. It's gourmet.
Q: Why cheesecake?
A: We have a family recipe my mom and dad started before I was even around, about 35 years ago. When I was growing up they always wanted to start a business. I use the traditional recipe with crazy toppings and flavors. People gather at food events in Buffalo so it just made sense. Larkin is the best place to be on a Tuesday night, by far.
[PHOTOS: See the Smiles at Food Truck Tuesday on May 31 in Larkin Square]
Q: How do "crazy toppings and flavors" make your dessert and truck stand out?
A: We have six to eight flavors of cheesecake on our truck and we have all fresh fruits. We do a candied bacon with a maple glaze topping. We do Lucky Charms with just the marshmallows with a marshmallow cream sauce. We do a loganberry cheesecake.
I like to marry flavors together and see if it works. We do a birthday cake infusion with cake batter and homemade whipped cream topping.
Q: You're from Rochester originally, but moved here for college and chose to stay. Why Buffalo for the food truck?
A: My Rochester friends hound me and invite me over there, but Buffalo is a great food city. We have every genre of food here and everything is well done. We're in the Taste of Buffalo for the first time this year.
People will want to try "Not your mother's PB&J" – two slices of peanut butter cheesecake with raspberry loganberry jelly and a couple of potato chips. People like it. It's crazy and different. I would go (to Rochester) for an event, but the truck is a 1979 Chevy.
Q: What other challenges do you face while running a food truck?
A: It's not easy work. People think you have an easy life – you serve food for a couple of hours, but it's endless every day, nonstop. But it makes you appreciate it more. It's much more satisfying and rewarding than my old corporate job. It's humbling.
Q: Have you gained weight working on a food truck?
A: Yes. I'm friends with all the other food truck owners. They'll say, "Oh cheesecake, here eat this burrito."
Q: What was your parents' reaction after learning you would use their recipe?
A: They were excited. They envisioned a store, but I said, "Hey, can I use your recipe? Here's my business plan." And they are very active in helping me. They remain behind the scenes. It's my family that's put this into effect. My wife's family, her parents stuck out their neck for me. My wife, even after her full-time job, is with me. That makes it go around. I just put it into motion.
Q: Do you ever see yourself with a brick and mortar location?
A: A storefront is in the ten-year plan, but I don't want to rush it. I have ideas and maybe I'd team up with a restaurant or bar and have the cheesecake be a shining dessert.