It’s not often that something new comes along that rocks my culinary world with its originality, simplicity, and pure taste sensation. That happened recently when I stumbled upon Spudz Potato at the Leucadia Farmers Market. The first thing I noticed was the line, always a good sign. That and the 6 guys in the booth working like a finely tuned assembly line cranking out this unique concoction. Who doesn’t like hash browns right? Think of hash browns filled with a variety of savory treats then grilled to a crunchy goodness with the option to top it with a perfectly fried egg or chili. Believe me folks, this is a taste and texture experience like you’ve never had before and as you will learn below, they have already been discovered by a VC who has plans to bring them to the masses so experience them at the intimacy of your local farmers market while you can.
Spudz was founded by Robert Aguilar and I caught up with him recently to learn more about his very cool venture that is on the verge of exploding.
You have created something totally original with Spudz. What is the history of the dish and how did you end up forming the business?
The history of the dish comes from a city in Southern Brazil called Curitiba. In this city they call it Swiss batata and it was made mostly by the poorer people because its main ingredient was the potato and they could take any left-over food and place it in the middle of this kind of potato pie. In Brazil the dish is made in the kitchen using two medium sized frying pans, you place the shredded potato inside the pan like a pie crust leaving room for the food you would like in the middle while taking the other pan, also filled with shredded potato, ready to place on top of each other to create this beautiful golden brown pizza looking dish. I came up with the idea to start this business almost by luck. My wife Erika, who is from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I were on our last two days of vacation in her home town of Santo Andre. I’m always up to try anything new and she asked me if I wanted to try this Brazilian potato dish, I said sure and away we went. I did not think about that dish again until about February 2012, when a friend of mine, who is from Curitiba, Brazil, invited us over to his house for dinner and to my surprise was making Swiss batata! We must have made over 10 different types that night and I said to my friend "You know we could sell these right"? Two months later in April of 2012 Spudz was born.
Your combination of crispy hash brown type potatoes with different fillings and toppings makes so much sense, but your preparation makes all the difference. Tell me how these are prepared, the different menu options, and more about that special cast iron pan you use.
How we came up with our menu options was at first just picking stuff that we like to eat. I love carne asada burritos and I decided that was going to be my first creation. We call it the Speedy Gonzales and we use a quality beef and all fresh vegetables for the pico de gallo, add in some avocado, cheese and don't forget to top it with my grandmother’s chili recipe. The Egghead was our next one and who could say no to a single dish with golden brown shredded potato, warm delicious bacon, cheese and a fried egg on top? We wanted something for the non-meat eaters and create the Popeye which is a mixture of ricotta cheese, sundried tomatoes and spinach. Now the "PAN" is truly the secret to our success, it gives our dish such a great look and it works perfectly every-time. At first we tried using the frying pan method to cook but it was not working out very well. Then again almost by luck we had a friend who knew someone that might be able to help us with our problem. We talked with him about how we needed a design that enabled us to cook our dish without having to hold two pans together ourselves and use a material that could get very warm, very fast. He sent us our "PAN" and now we have patent pending and hopefully soon will be offering them for sale.
This seems like a concept that is poised for expansion...do you have any plans to take it to another level?
One day at the Vista farmers market this guy orders a Speedy Gonzales, puts my grandma’s chili on top and walks away. A couple minutes later I notice the guy standing off in the corner just staring at our booth still. He walks back up and ask me if I’m the owner. I say yes and he hands me his card, his name is Thomas and he is a venture capitalist. He ask me straight forward if I want to open one Spudz spot because if I do he can't help me, but if I want to open 50 then he can help. After making some phone calls and checking out Thomas I find out he is legit. He is a great friend and advisor now who will be helping to take Spudz to the next level for sure.
Check out Spudz at the Leucadia Farmer’s Market and other markets around San Diego. Find out more at www.spudzpotato.com