Patrick Harris has prepared classical French cuisine at the high-end Adour restaurant in Washington's St. Regis Hotel, served salmon platters at an inaugural banquet for former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and headed up the kitchen when the Water Grill opened in Carytown. But at present, he's found his niche serving tacos out of a delivery truck that moves to a different spot — announced via Twitter and bokatruck.com — each day.
Harris, who passed up a culinary-school scholarship to pursue a marketing degree at George Mason University, says he has always wanted to be his own boss. The inspiration for his Boka Tako Truck, which started rolling in February, was to produce an Asian/Mexican/American fusion. Emphasizing the twist on tradition, Harris tweaked the Spanish spellings in the name. (Boca means mouth). "You're not going to see anything on my menu that represents anything that you've seen on a taco menu anywhere else," he says. Harris' "takos" come with fillings such as Korean bulgogi beef, kimchi, guajillo pork, habañero-lime cabbage, cilantro chicken, caramelized onions, sherry slaw and tofu. Boka also serves dishes such as duck confit with orange-blossom rice, truffle-ginger emulsion and Asian vegetables.
Recently, he has expanded his reach. In August, he partnered with Michael Ng, owner of the Thai Cabin carts downtown. The result of the partnership is Komida, a play off the Spanish word for food — comida. Since then, three Komida "karts" have been appearing downtown in addition to the Boka truck and Thai Cabin carts.
Harris (pictured) is head chef for all three entities, while Ng focuses on the business end. Ng says that he recognized Harris' talent as a chef and thought they would create a successful partnership by drawing on each other's strengths. "I know how to grow the business, but in order for me to grow the business, we have to have good food on a consistent basis," Ng says.
Komida serves a condensed Boka menu. On a sunny Wednesday in September, people lined up at 11th and Broad Streets near VCU Medical Center to get a taste.
James George, a new customer, said he likes the nacho salad, duck confit and the variety of tacos but would prefer a spicier fish taco — something Harris says he can adjust. "I'm turning into a regular," George said. "It's a great addition to the MCV street food."
In addition to Boka and Komida, Harris operates a separate business, Personal Chef Catering (pccatering.com), which he describes as fine dining. And Harris and Ng say they would like to open a restaurant when the right opportunity comes along.
Until then, quips Harris, "I'm conquering Richmond one block at a time."