Is Dante Gonzales an artist/event promoter who loves cooking or a chef who cooks up high-concept events? The self-styled "Mr. Fried Chicken" lets Los Angeles decide as he stuffs his entire underground art-and-grub mashup party into a food truck.
The Dante Fried Chicken truck (Twitter: @kfcrip) officially launches next Tuesday, August 3rd, although look for test runs before then. The centerpiece of the menu is the Sock It To Me Fried Chicken -- boneless pieces of "eco fresh" chicken brined overnight then battered in a bizarre combo of almost 30 ingredients (lemon juice, buttermilk, black tea, oats, nuts, dried fruits, etc.), before being fried.
"I am a fried chicken connoisseur," Gonzales says, "but I don't believe there's a 'best in the world.' It's a character dish, like gumbo or mole. It depends on what region you're from. I will say you've never had fried chicken like this."
Better known in underground art, music and nightlife scenes than in the food world, Gonzales launched his monthly party out of his Williamsburg loft in 2000. Held on Sundays (as a tribute to his grandma's after-church socials), the pop-ups featured performances by visual artists and musicians while Gonzales cooked and served food for NYC's über-cool kids. If you were lucky, you might have caught a young Santigold (neé Santogold) singing her soon-to-be-hit "L.E.S. Artistes" prior to her debut album's release.
He spent the last year-and-a-half years in Europe staging hybrid food/art shows in the galleries and alleys of Paris, London, Stockholm and Berlin. Now, he's back in the city of his youth, rolling out DFC's ride-or-fry ethic in Los Angeles.
"I tried to open a truck in NY, but it's not a very nurturing place to do it without a budget. In L.A., I found this place called Road Stoves. "If they like your proposal, they'll set you up," Gonzales says.
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The setup on the Dante Fried Chicken truck: $5 for an entrée and $8 for a combo with dark meat, light meat, a coconut-honey biscuit and two sides. Sides include a different flavor of mac 'n cheese every week; a cucumber, corn and ginger salad; pumpkin grits and a rotating mystery side. (Gonzales says he has 500 from which to choose.)
Vegetarians can order the Sock It To Me Tofu, which uses the same batter recipe as the chicken. All sides -- except for the mac 'n cheese -- are vegan. Dessert is a different pie each week, made from scratch and with a vegan crust.
Gonzales is thinking big. He's shopping around a pilot for a Dante Fried Chicken show, shooting another pilot for a children's TV show and recording a radio show connected to the truck.
Gonzales waxes philosophical -- and anthropological. "I love the mobility of Los Angeles. People don't mind driving and going to places. I would like to connect the different cultures of L.A.," he says, "all under music, food and art."