Flint, MI—Sitting down with the team behind Fengshui, a new Asian-fusion food truck, feels a lot like hanging out at the cool kids’ table in the high school cafeteria.
Dustin Totten, the food truck’s owner, holds court, insisting he’s trying to settle everyone down despite having just riled them up himself.
Johnathan Ergen, the truck’s sous chef, smiles quietly, ready for a one-liner when the time is right.
Joseph Banks, chef de cuisine, is animated—all arms and hands as he tells the group a story—while Trey Jackson, co-owner, asks if he should provide his real name or an alias to Flint Beat, to which the entire group laughs and tells him to shut up.
All of them wear or carry a flat brim black hat, shirt, or hoodie with Fengshui’s bright red logo on the front, like when the football team wore their jerseys to class on game days.
And—like in high school—the team would seem intimidating to sit with if they weren’t so warm and welcoming.
“Oh, and [write down] Andre Rowels,” Totten said, noting their executive chef couldn’t make it to the interview. “He’s got another job.”
Totten gave an exaggerated eye roll, as if anyone would want to be somewhere else but a sweltering food truck kitchen on a sunny, mid-summer afternoon.
The guys all laughed again.
Before there was the Fengshui food truck, Totten started a car detailing company.
He began that company in 2020, he said, after the upscale restaurant he was then working at in downtown Flint shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And we made an abundance of money on the detailing company,” Totten said, with pride in his voice. “And I told these guys, I said, ‘Well, if I ever come back to the restaurant industry, it’ll be on my time.’”
That time came more swiftly than expected, given the success of the detailing company, Totten said, under which he secured partnerships with several dealerships to create a steady income stream.
“So I took all the profits from that and I dragged these guys along,” Totten said, gesturing around the small, square table at his childhood-friends-turned-colleagues.
He said he then bought two food trucks, putting around $70,000 into one and $30,000 into the other, and assembled the crew now sitting with him.
“We’ve got the probably best team in Genesee County,” Totten said.
“I mean, honestly, realistically, if you think about it, every last one of us have put in time in a top-tier restaurant in the county,” Banks added. Both Ergen and Jackson nodded.
Between them, the Fengshui team has worked in the food industry for more than 14 years at places like Brick Street, Da Edoardo, and Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich., Cork in downtown Flint, and commercial kitchens across the county.
“I feel like this [success] is happening so fast because we’ve put in the work, the time, the effort, the sweat, and everything to get where we are,” Banks said. “And everyone knows our names. Everyone knows what we’re good at.”
And what the Fengshui team seems to be good at, given their early sales, is Asian fusion cuisine.
“Where else are you going to go get a Philly cheese egg roll or buffalo chicken wonton?” Banks said through a chuckle.
But, Totten interrupted, the food they’ve showcased so far is not the team’s end goal.
The owner said Fengshui’s current menu is meant for big gigs expected at performance venues throughout the summer, but the real mission is to launch their second truck as a mobile fine dining location by late August or early September.
“Fine dining out of a cardboard cup,” Ergen and Jackson said in unison as Totten finished his sentence. It seemed to be the group’s working tagline for the next truck.
“But really, we want it to be an experience,” he said.
“We’re going to move into better stuff: Peking duck tacos, poke nachos, crab rangoon flatbread,” Totten added. “I want to be the first food truck with a Michelin star.”
In the meantime, the Fengshui team presents as just that: a team.
They have set up a payment understanding where no one makes an hourly rate but rather gets a percentage of the truck’s earnings. They all take turns on the line, running the register, prepping dishes, and laughing with customers—no matter their job title.
“I don’t want to be like the chefs that I’ve worked for,” Banks said. “We’ve all worked for so many kitchens that we’ve seen fail over and over … we know what not to do, and we know the correct way.”
Fengshui: Asian Fusion food truck’s next event will be Sunday, July 24, 2022 at Tenacity Brewing in Flint. Further location announcements can be found on the truck’s Facebook page.