A bright red food truck decorated with googly eyes has taken up residence on Petosa’s Corner in Freeland, in the spot where a former BBQ food truck once operated.
The new business, IC Teriyaki, is owned and operated by Freeland residents Eli Imbery and Carol Coble.
“I really like teriyaki food, and I was really bummed you can’t get it anywhere south of Oak Harbor, so I thought a food truck needs to happen,” said Imbery, who also owns Greenbank Construction.
Knowing that Coble has experience running a coffee shop before, Imbery approached her about being his business partner for the new teriyaki venture. He used to date Coble’s daughter several years ago.
“Eli, he’s become like one of my kids,” Coble said.
With her daughter’s blessing, Coble agreed to partner with Imbery. IC Teriyaki opened about a month ago.
North Whidbey resident Ryan Airriess, who is the food truck’s chef, leaped at the chance to join the business when Imbery and Coble posted on Facebook about hiring staff. He comes up with all the recipes for IC Teriyaki, and has taught the other workers — and even Imbery and Coble — how to make the food.
“Carol’s awesome. She picked up on making teriyaki sauce from scratch really easy the first day. It took her a while to pronounce ‘gyoza’ correctly,” Airriess said with a laugh.
“Everything that needs to be done, he can do like three times faster than the rest of us,” Coble said.
Although he was classically trained in Italian and French cuisine, Airriess has spent most of his life perfecting recipes from Asian cuisine.
“I grew up in a household where my dad was born in the Philippines,” he said. “He was constantly over in Asia, bringing back inspiration when I was a little kid so I’ve always grown up with teriyaki, stir-fry, ramen, that kind of stuff.”
He added that it has been gratifying to see his recipes put into practice and to receive such a positive response from the community.
“I’m extremely passionate about anything Japanese, when it comes to food, culture, history, anything like that. Hence the giant sleeve of nothing but Japanese tattoos,” he said, pointing to his arm.
Coble said she admired his calm personality under the pressure of operating what has so far been a busy food truck.
Visitors to the truck can find chicken teriyaki, spicy chicken, beef teriyaki, tofu teriyaki, gyoza, a teriyaki bowl and a house salad on the menu.
“I think we’re filling part of a gap, but also a very specific one with this operation,” Imbery said.
The hope is that customers will be able to place take-out orders in advance soon. Imbery said they plan to keep the truck open year-round if demand persists.
Coble agreed that she thinks they have the stamina to make that happen. She has seen customers lining up outside the truck as early as 10:45 a.m. some days.
“I really would say that 99% of our customers have been locals. I know everybody that come’s here,” she said, adding that she has met some new people as well.
“This is not just a big tourist thing that’s on the highway,” she said.