Chef Luca Manfé works on the season finale of 'Masterchef' season 4.
Houston’s food trucks are a diverse lot. There’s everything from lobster rolls and tacos courtesy Cousins Maine Lobster, to finger-licking wings and garlic rice from Sticky’s Chicken. Now the mobile food scene is getting another jolt in diversity with the soon-to-be addition of The Lucky Fig — a farm-to-street food truck concept from chef, cookbook author and TV personality Luca Manfé.
If his name sounds familiar, it’s probably not a coincidence: Manfé was the Season-4 winner of Fox’s hit show MasterChef.
After leaving his native country of Italy, Manfé traveled to the United States and worked in restaurants from Florida to New York, perfecting cuisines like Japanese, French, modern American and, of course, Italian. He then started his own catering company, Dinner with Luca, and published a cookbook titled My Italian Kitchen (one of the prizes from his MasterChef win, in addition to the $250,000 grand prize), which showcases his favorite family recipes. Now he’s settled on his newest endeavor — conquering the Houston food-truck scene by highlighting fresh, seasonal ingredients (directly from local farms) through authentic Italian meals.
“We worked hard to create a concept to meet the needs of a fast-growing niche market in Houston,” Manfé says. “People are taking a keen interest in where their food comes from, and we are able to provide answers down to each ingredient.”
Since Manfé is not a native Houstonian, he worked exclusively with a team of experts (including local farmers) to uncover the most fresh, organic ingredients in the area, which will go into each of Manfé’s Italian menu items, such as a meatball recipe from his mother (titled My Mother’s Meatballs in his aforementioned cookbook), polenta fries, risotto balls, paninis served on homemade focaccia and ciabatta, homemade pasta and more. His goal is to create a mesh between nostalgic Italian food from the past and modern street food.
“In Italy, you don’t eat the tomatoes in January; you eat the tomato sauce Grandma made in the summer,” explains Manfé. “We want to introduce a vintage concept focusing on homemade, authentic items made from local, fresh ingredients.”
That means virtually everything is made from scratch, including pickles, smoked organic tomato sauces, local organic grits, fresh ricotta made from local milk, mayonnaise from local, organic cage-free eggs, and fresh bread made with organic flour. The truck will also utilize eco-friendly packaging and materials only.
The physical Lucky Fig truck also takes on the retro-meets-modern flair. Formerly a UPS delivery truck, the 1954 Ford P500 has been updated with a turquoise paint job and new Electrolux appliances, but still reflects the vehicle’s original integrity. The Lucky Fig is slated to open late November.
Follow The Lucky Fig on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @theluckyfig.