Call it a Seattle meltdown. Monte Cristo, the gourmet grilled cheese truck dreamed up by a four-star chef, is leaving the city for Portland.
The cheery polka-dotted truck started rolling in October, featuring creative, dressed-up grilled cheeses and soups and sandwiches that used high-quality local ingredients. (Fried Beecher’s cheese curds were a favorite.) It was created by Danielle Custer, a James Beard award-winning chef who had most recently worked in a managerial position for BAMCO, overseeing 150 employees on major projects like setting up a cafe at the Starbucks headquarters. She had loved getting back to line cooking and getting the chance to “play with a dream.”
“It was super fun, it was such a great project,” Custer said by phone yesterday, en route to Portland, where she will be meeting with the truck’s new team. The opportunity “works really well for everyone involved, including me,” she said, though “It’s a little soon for my heart, in all honesty.”
Custer will stay with the company in Seattle — it’s her home, she said, and she has some other projects in the works.
The truck was doing well in Seattle, she said, and it’s not out of the question that the company might eventually run another Monte Cristo here. But the Portland opportunity “happened very quickly,” and there wasn’t time to outfit a second truck rather than sending the original one South. The Portland version will have an all-new crew and will probably add its own menu items, using Oregon producers, though she expects it to be “holistically” the same. Truck chef Royal Gunter had moved out of state a few weeks ago, in an unrelated move, and the other employees have been offered other jobs within the company, she said.
Want a final taste from the truck? It’ll be in Seattle until mid-month at these locations, with a final lunchtime bon voyage party at Second and Pike on Aug. 16.