Innovation in a Food Truck: Chef Vincent Anthony Baetiong

May 01, 2024

Welcome to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Throughout May at Compass Group, we are celebrating and appreciating the contributions of generations of Asians and Pacific Islanders who have enriched the US – and our organization – through their heritage and culture. First up is an innovator in the culinary arts who infuses his food with amazing and alive flavors…

Chef Vincent Anthony Baetiong is a man on the move. If you’re wondering what drives him, it is – quite literally – a food truck. It’s where he got his start in the culinary profession more than a decade ago and it’s where he’s innovating now as head chef of Bon Appètit Management Company’s Studio Food Truck in Los Angeles.

Along his career journey, he’s cooked in restaurant and commercial kitchens with world-renowned chefs, but there is something about food trucks. “I like a smaller kitchen because almost everything is in arms reach, you have to be efficient because not too many bodies can be in the truck and, with limited space, you have to really grind the thought processes around ‘what can we execute here?’” enthused Chef Anthony.

What he excels at is maintaining Bon Appètit ‘s high-end dining standards from his food truck. He regularly features specials and admits his best ideas always seem to come 10 or 15 minutes before opening. “I think it gives my culinarians that experience and rush of working under pressure, and handling it because I will help and we will build something delicious together along the way,” he said. He thrives on being in an open kitchen. “Once the doors open in the truck, it’s all eyes on us,” he noted.

Chef Anthony is quick to point out that his early and most enduring influence is his Filipino heritage. Both of his parents immigrated to the U.S. Growing up, vacations were spent visiting family in the Philippines where he was immersed in the food, culture, and traditions of his parents’ homeland. “I got lucky at a young age to actually see how things are cooked, flavor profiles, what you could pick off a tree or what’s given or what you’re able to afford at the time,” Chef Anthony recalled.

Those experiences are what he carries into his culinary creations. “Being able to fuse what I love to eat here with what I love to eat from the Philippines into one thing, gives an opportunity for others who haven’t had Filipino food to at least try it,” Chef Anthony said.

Another early influence was his dad who was the family cook and the go-to guy for big family parties. Even the simplest things were deliciously and lovingly prepared such as fried pork chops and rice, and caldereta, which is a braised beef stew. “Dad passed on recipes to me and showed me different ways of cooking things and how they would be prepared back home,” Chef Anthony shared. “Now that I’ve had a little bit of years under my belt, I’ll still watch him cook.”

Most of Chef Anthony’s culinary training, however, came from working in food trucks. His first gig was with his cousin-in-law in 2010, during the big boom of food trucks in L.A. His cousin boldly entered the Food Network’s food truck contest. “The cherry on top was that we all won together for the first season of the show!” Chef Anthony jubilantly recalled.

For about three years, he went through the ranks and grinded it out on food trucks. He had four different stints on what was at the time a small knit community of food trucks. After that he moved to a bricks-and-mortar kitchen and then worked in a variety of commercial settings. His talent, positivity, and creative energy led him to opportunities working alongside such celebrated chefs as Wolfgang Puck, Guy Fieri, and Michael Voltaggio. “Just being able to go from different kitchen to kitchen and work with different chefs, that’s my education,” he said.

Oddly, he’s never eaten a full plate of his own food. He’ll taste it along the way to make sure the flavors are there. He admits it’s “kind of weird,” but his inner perfectionist makes him a big critic of his own cooking. “It won’t be where I always want it to be, even though people will say, ‘oh, it’s the best thing,’ which I really appreciate and can’t thank them for enough,” he said.

Chef Anthony’s food truck is a must-eat dining experience on the studio lot and his fans are legion, including his culinary colleagues. “Chef Anthony infuses his food with amazing and alive flavors,” noted Mur Rae Glenn, chef manager for Bon Appètit. Two stand-out dishes that quickly come to her mind are his beautifully seared citrus achiote marinated king salmon over perfectly cooked wild rice and sauteed haricot vert, and soy-sake marinated flat-iron steak with ginger soy sauce over Okinawan sweet potato puree and charred shishito peppers. “I was gobsmacked that these came from a food truck,” she added.

Heritage, family influences, working with different chefs and especially in food trucks – all of it has contributed to Chef Anthony thinking big in small spaces: “Looking back at my career path, I never would have imagined that being in the food truck would take me places,” he mused.

Keep on trucking, Chef Anthony!