One advantage of being based in Rhode Island is that there are many cities that have great food truck communities that I can drive to in under four hours. In the case of Boston it is less than 60 miles away and has over 50 trucks serving the community.
And, point in fact, one of the very first trips that I took to visit food trucks was a day trip to Boston. Since then, I have been to Boston numerous times to visit and eat at trucks, learn about the unique rules and regulations the city has put in place, and attend meetings at the Boston Food Truck Alliance and at Boston City Hall.
I met Terri from The Cod Squad on one of those early Boston trips. Quite simply, she is my ambassador in Boston. She has introduced me to food truck operators, invited me to events, and always picked up the phone or answered an email when I have contacted her.
April is the official kick off of food truck season in Boston when the city food truck locations are renewed and reserved, the weather warms up, and new trucks hit the road.
A perfect time to ask Terri to tell me more about The Cod Squad.
Eric: Who owns and operates The Cod Squad?
Terri: Terri Beal & Kim Marden
Eric: What led you to the idea of starting a food truck?
Terri: Kim saw the food truck phenomenon exploding in Boston and wanted to bring his fresh idea for his fresh seafood to the streets of the Metro-Boston areas, so we could share in the fun food craze.
Eric: When did your food truck hit the road?
Terri: It was June 2012. Food trucks were relatively new to Boston. At the time I remember thinking Metro-Boston wasn’t quite ready for food trucks! They’re getting there now, though!
Eric: So The Cod Squad is just one component of a larger organization?
Terri: Yes, Captain Marden’s Seafoods Inc. is one of the largest wholesalers in New England – serving nearly 400 restaurants and businesses. We are a four generation family owned and operated business. Kim and I are college buddies, which gave us a great working relationship. Kim’s grandfather, Roy Marden’s, goal was to bring the freshest seafood to the residents of Boston and beyond, a goal that Kim has upheld and grown exponentially. The cool thing is that our customers can dine on fresh lobster, salmon, haddock, clams, and more at a fraction of the price they would pay if dining at a local restaurant. Captain Marden’s is not only a wholesaler but we also operate a restaurant as well as The Cod Squad Food Truck
Eric: How did you come up with the name for the food truck?
Terri: Our restaurant manager, Mark Tosches, came up with the name. We have had a lot of customers tell us that they thought it said, “The God Squad”, which is great!
Eric: What did you do before you owned/operated a food truck?
Terri: I taught high school computer science and agriculture, managed the technical support division of a government operations, consulting firm, and worked for the City of Boston & Boston Police Headquarters. Kim has always worked in his family business. He has actually done every job there is to do, from going to auction at the wee hours of the morning on the fishing piers of Boston to filleting fresh haddock, tuna, salmon, and now to owning and running the entire business, including the very successful wholesale division.
Eric: Do you work on the truck yourself?
Terri: Yes, both of us do. Kim has worked on it at times and I work on the truck most days.
Eric: Can you think of something about running a mobile food business that is very different than what your expectations were?
Terri: When I started working with The Cod Squad I had no idea of the special events like Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, birthday parties, graduation parties, etc. that we would be hired to be part of. They are so much fun and such an honor to participate in!
Eric: How would you describe your food?
Terri: THE FRESHEST SEAFOOD YOU CAN TASTE!
Eric: Do I even need to ask what your most popular items is? Tell me anyway!
Terri: I am sure it is what you are expecting! Lobsta rolls.
Eric: Do you have a menu item that is truly unique to your food truck?
Terri: Yes. There is no other truck that we have been able to identify, in the entire United States, that is the seafood purveyor and provider – affording our customers the opportunity to truly benefit from haddock, for example, that was filleted and prepared to order within hours of it being caught.
Eric: Do you have a particularly memorable story about a reaction a customer had to your food, or special experience someone had at your truck, or a celebrity or high profile customer? Feel free to share as many or few details.
Terri: I rarely forget a face. It is a part of our customer service that we have become known for. I love dogs. Once on a hot summer day I offered a customer’s dog water before I waited on him. They were both very appreciative. Later that year I welcomed a customer back to the truck. He said, “Oh, no, I’ve never been here before, I am from L.A.!” I apologized and told him that he must remind me of one of our other customers. But, it bugged me, because I knew that I had seen this man’s face before. When he reached the window, I asked him what lead him to our truck that day. He said he asked around and everyone told him he should try Captain Marden’s fish & chips and chowder at The Cod Squad. He ordered, and when I looked at his credit card to get his name for the order, it said, “Cesar Milan” – THE DOG WHISPERER! What a wonderfully delightful man he is, it was really great to meet and serve him.
Eric: Have you received any special award or accolades that you would like to share?
Terri: We were one of the top five Boston Food Trucks on the A-List, We are one of the top 8 in Thrillist, we won Third Place overall at the Converse Employee Appreciation contest (out of over 20 trucks!)
Eric: What is one thing that customers do not know about running a food truck that you would like to share?
Terri: For us, it is that all of our food is cooked to order, so it may take more than five minutes and up to 10 minutes to prepare.
Eric: What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten from a food truck/cart? Which truck was it and where?
Terri: I LOVE most of the Boston area food trucks, it’s really a tossup – I LOVE the frijoles & guacamole from Baja Taco Truck and Pennypackers’ Porchetta sandwich.
Eric: What city's food truck scene would you most like to visit and why?
Terri: Austin – my dad keeps sending me pictures. They even have their own comic strip going – something I want to start here in Boston. I think it could be hilarious.
Eric: Is there a food truck that you would most like to visit someday?
Terri: The Empanada truck from NYC – they won first place at the Throwdown and I never had a chance to make it over there.
You can learn more about The Cod Squad and can find Terri's smiling face at http://www.foodtrucksin.com/cod-squad